open thread – March 11-12, 2016

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,337 comments… read them below }

  1. Mockingjay*

    Meeting Minutes Saga!

    Last week I took a wonderful family vacation to the Caribbean. It was marvelous. First real vacation in years. I felt quite refreshed upon my return to work.

    The refreshment did not last very long.

    Monday morning I was informed by my team lead that, while I was on vacation, the Big Boss decreed all meeting minutes will be performed by the Technical Writing team. Period.

    The Program Management team has been reorganized and the Administrative Assistant’s title has been changed to Project Analyst. She is supposed to assist the team leads in task management. The former assistant will not provide any minutes or meeting support (not that she ever did).

    How can I get promoted like that?

    (I know, I know, I can’t control her actions, only mine. But I’m human and it’s irritating to be held to a higher standard. She isn’t willing to doing her work, so rather than her manager holding her accountable, her tasks are dumped onto the tech writers and they find her something else to do. Horrible management.)

    Further, my lead told me that one of the project leads said I had missed recording an action item in a teleconference. She asked him if he had reviewed the draft minutes. He said yes, but he didn’t notice the omission. It boggles my mind. He doesn’t pay attention in class, but I have to. Neither Intrepid Colleague nor I are trained in transcription and dictation, yet we are held responsible for the content and accuracy of the information captured.

    I just nodded and said sure, I’ll go with the flow. The pay is the same. I have about three more years until retirement. I’m counting down…

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Can you record the meetings? That way you won’t have to worry about missing something.

      1. blackcat*

        Or run dictation software on a computer the entire time?

        It could be gibberish, but there’d be a “record” to check against.

      2. Mockingjay*

        No, we cannot record for security reasons. Also, I don’t have an auditory memory. My minutes taking is me typing key words as fast as I can, panicked that I might miss something. The one time I tried to transcribe from a recording (a few years ago, different company), it took me three days to do one hour’s worth of meeting time. I don’t have this skill and I don’t want to acquire it. I am supposed to be working on software documentation, not taking minutes. That’s my whole objection. The Admin Assistant was hired to record minutes.

        1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

          I don’t blame you for being upset. Hopefully you can make it through the three years without killing someone!

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think you might talk w/ someone about minutes taking tactics. You don’t need a whole transcript; you ought to be listening and synthesizing the actual decisions and factual input; not every argument needs to be recorded.

          In our co-op board meetings, we’re careful to record only the actual motions and decisions–and no discussion.

          A corporate meeting might include more discussion, or maybe more background, “OK, so Jane in Accounting will be a source,” so your minutes say: source: Jane in Accounting.

          It should be note-taking, not transcription.

          I see someone mentioned this point below, but I really want to emphasize it, and emphasize that maybe you should reach out and get someone to coach you through this.

          Your boss seems to have your back, so maybe now’s a good time for you to get her to help you find some coaching.

    2. Terra*

      Do the best you can and if someone complains reasonably point out that you have no training in the task and are learning on the fly which means you aren’t perfect.

      I feel your frustrations though, we have a programmer who for some reason gets away with not doing tasks because he doesn’t want to so they get dumped on everyone else instead.

    3. MissLibby*

      Minutes are not supposed to be a verbatim transcription of a meeting, rather a record of actions taken. If they want a transcription of the meeting, then it needs to be recorded and transcribed by someone trained to do so, but that is not minutes or even meeting notes. Unless you are a court reporter, this a completely unreasonable request.

      Also, whoever is in charge of running the meeting, i.e. Chair, should be working with the minutes taker to ensure that you are getting what you need. For instance, when a motion and second is made, the Chair should say motion by Fergus, second by Jane to approve whatever the action is and then call for the vote. That everyone, including the person taking minutes is clear on who moved and seconded and what the action was. If there is confusion, the chair or person running the meeting should ask for clarification and direct you what to record in the minutes.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Our meetings are teams of engineers saying do this now, while on their laptops answering emails and working on something else. Since they are preoccupied with other things, they want someone else doing the listening and writing down their ‘homework’ assignments for them. But there are too many meetings. The project staff has tripled in the last two years, and I now spend the majority of my time taking minutes. I did five meetings this week alone, and zero technical documents. Three years ago when I started with this project, I did all technical documents and no minutes.

        I asked my lead if we could limit the number of meetings that we support, such as cut out most of the internal status meetings. Nope. They want minutes for EVERYTHING.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Can you ask for 5-10 minutes at the end of the meeting to go over the list of action items? Otherwise, since it sounds like you are at the end of caring anyway, I would feel no shame in saying “wait, wait, pause for a minute, let me make sure I’ve got that last one” and stopping the meeting instead of just typing like a crazy person and possibly missing things.

          Honestly, if the person giving the action item or the person receiving the action item can’t be bothered to write it down and notice it’s absence in the minutes.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Also–on another thread someone was complaining about what she saw as micromanaging by a participant who would say, “put this in the minutes,” or “don’t put this in the minutes.”

        So maybe you stop taking notes frantically, and listen, and then whenever it sounds like someone has said, “Oh we should do this,” you speak up and say, “OK, an action item for the minutes?” and make them confirm for you.

    4. Jen in RO*

      This sounds horrible. I’m a tech writer as well, and I would suck at taking minutes! The skill sets are not remotely the same..

    5. RedBlueGreenYellow*

      Like Jen in RO, I’m also a tech writer who things this sounds terrible. I’m sorry. In my career, I’ve seen that it can take quite a bit of time for the engineers or developers to understand and respect the technical skills of a technical writer. To have management using the tech writers as admins totally undermines that. Argh.

    6. Miles*

      While any task can be assigned as “duties as assigned,” expecting the kind of quality as you would get from hiring someone for that particular task is unrealistic.

      If you’re stuck with this position it may be necessary to reduce the detail of the notes in order to make sure you catch everything. Nobody reads meeting minutes anyway, except apparently your boss. And frankly, it’s more likely that there wasn’t a mistake when the boss looked over it after the meeting and is misremembering what was said a week later than that she didn’t remember the detail after the meeting but suddenly remembered it accurately a week later.

  2. Trying to make a difference*

    Do you have an international corporate volunteer program or are you working to create one? Are there any good companies that have helped your organization coordinate this? What are the costs and how are they divided between the company and employee? What are the expectations for employees that participate?

    1. it happens*

      IBM has a corporate service corps. It is very competitive to get into and requires a full staff to screen employee applications, set up service projects and manage the rest of the process. IBM is very proud of the program – you can find out more details on their website.
      In other words, it takes big money and commitment to do it well.

    2. Anna*

      Kaiser Permanente NW has a volunteer program that is fairly well done. You might see if there’s any press about it.

  3. extra-anonymous invertebrate*

    Short version: How long should I stay at the company that paid $$$ toward my graduate degree, in order to make sure that we part on really good terms?

    Long version: I’ve worked for a certain company since I finished undergrad, about eight years ago. The company has a generous tuition reimbursement policy for job-related coursework, which paid for a substantial percentage of my expensive masters degree. I finished the degree about six months ago and am starting to think about my next career move, partially because I’m maxing out on individual-contributor roles here and would prefer not to go into management, and partially because it’s just time for something new after eight years. There’s no policy on how long you have to stay after using the tuition reimbursement benefit, and I’m in no danger of having to pay back any money. However, I do want to make sure that I leave on the best terms possible. It’s a close-knit field and there will definitely be opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations, networking, recruiting, etc. with this company in the future. I know I’m probably overthinking this, but — how long do you think is long enough that it doesn’t look like I’m taking the money and running?

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Has anyone from your company discussed your options with you now that you have received your degree? When I got my masters, my boss sat down and went over my potential new options. He also outlined what would be available if I got my PhD (most people in my department have one.)

      Are there new opportunities now that you have your graduate degree? YMMV, but I wouldn’t feel guilty about moving on if the the company paid for a degree that doesn’t provide any new options.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I would suggest that you open up this sort of conversation with them (including the idea that you’d prefer to be a high-functioning individual contributor instead of a manager).

        That way, if you do leave, it will be with their full knowledge that you are ambitious to move up to greater things, and they’ll know they weren’t able to provide it.

        But maybe they could provide what you’re looking for, even if only in the short term, if they only knew about it.

        Then I’d say about a year.

        1. hbc*

          100% agree. The acceptable time frame is much shorter if you make clear what you want your career path to look like and they can’t provide it. Jumping ship for an equivalent position would probably leave a foul taste if less than 1.5-2 years out, while 1 year is definitely fine for a job they don’t offer. The fact that you’ve got nearly a decade at the company weighs heavily in your favor too–even if you left 6 months after the degree, they’re not going to think you simply used them for the benefit.

      2. extra-anonymous invertebrate*

        Ah, I really like this perspective, thanks (to Toots and hbc too)! I guess there’s no reason why I have to keep this thought process under wraps, which hadn’t occurred to me.

        1. TootsNYC*

          You never know–if you’re really interested in becoming a Power Player without being an actual manager, they may create that position for you!

          Because it may simply never have occurred to them!

    2. Caroline*

      Honestly, I’d probably want to say 2 years after finishing your masters. But, if you’re really ready to move on, that’s a long time! I think a year after finishing your masters (so another six months) is really the minimum I’d hope for if I was your boss.

      And congrats on getting your graduate degree whilst working, that’s no mean feat!

      1. K*

        +1 I agree with two years. A year is hardly any time at all. They paid for it as a retention strategy, not so you could get them to pay for your schooling and go somewhere else to use it.

        1. Pizza is a vegetable*

          She’s already been there 8 — so I think that changes things a bit, in favor of her giving maybe another 6 months max IF they can’t find something more in line with her career goals for her there.

          If they can, then she should try it out and give it at least 18 more months minimum.. imo

    3. Master Bean Counter*

      A year seems right to me, unless something truly fabulous comes up. And by fabulous I mean even your manager would say, “Wow that’s an absolutely great opportunity for you!”

    4. GOG11*

      I work at an institution that reimburses part of masters degrees. Many people leave as soon as they finish theirs, and I’ve never heard anyone refer to it in a negative way. Here at least, it’s considered part of your compensation for the work you are currently performing or have performed. The only time it’s seen as an investment by our company is when it relates directly to a person’s role here, and there’s no policy that dictates what type of degree or area of study a person pursues, but even then people leave pretty quickly (which is another story) so ultimately it’s like any other benefit here.

      I think it depends on your workplace culture if there’s nothing in your workplace policies about it, so maybe others will weigh in at workplaces where it would be frowned upon to leave too soon after completing the degree.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Wow, I wish my company did this. I really want to go for my masters in either library sciences or French, but my company only pays for business-related degrees.

        1. Ghost Town*

          Our library department has a bunch of degrees that you might be able to swing into the business arena, like a Masters of Information Science.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Oryx and Ghost Town – I kind of always thought I could make that argument to my company, so you’ve just reminded me to float that idea to HR to see how that would work. We have an information research center that’s staffed with mostly librarians anyway, so I hope they would make the connection and approve the request.

    5. Lucky*

      Say you start looking now and it takes 3-6 months to find a new position. At that point, you are at least 1 year out from your current company’s reimbursement of all of your tuition, except for the last semester or quarter, right? And you’re at least 9 months out from their reimbursement for your last semester or quarter? That doesn’t seem too terrible to me.

    6. ElCee*

      At my company there is a caveat with the tuition reimbursement that if you leave (of your own volition obviously) within six months of your tuition being paid, you pay it back. I find that pretty fair.

    7. Barbara in Swampeast*

      Most companies with policies about tuition reimbursement want people to stay at least a year if not two years so they can contribute their knowledge for the benefit of the company.

      Have you talked to your manager about new possibilities?

    8. Professionally Anon*

      Does your workplace have a mandatory requirement that you must remain for X years after finishing your degree or pay the sum of the tuition back?

      1. extra-anonymous invertebrate*

        No, there isn’t. I think if there were actually a policy, it would make this easier!

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          If there is no policy, I wouldn’t worry about it. As long as you don’t leave within days/weeks of finishing your degree you are fine. This is a normal cost of business that your company is not particularly concerned with since they don’t have a payback window.

          That said, your manager should know that you are interested in doing more so if you haven’t had that conversation you should. Maybe there are other options internally; maybe not. But by having the conversation your manager won’t be blind-sided by you leaving.

    9. Christian Troy*

      I know someone who had his master’s degree paid for by his company. In his situation, the master’s degree wasn’t something he was crazy about because it didn’t fit in his professional path. His organization had a policy that he had to stay two years after finishing it and they did end up offering him a new position after it was finished, except it was in an area he didn’t want to continue in professionally so he ended up moving forward with interviews at other organizations.

      I don’t think you need to stay out of a sense of obligation as long as there’s no policy about it. I also don’t think you need to have a conversation with your manager unless you wanted to stay at the company. It seems normal to want to see what else is out there at this point.

      1. No Longer Passing By*

        How did he get looped into a degree that he wasn’t interested in? Was this something that his boss suggested?

    10. Tilly W*

      This is timely for me. I’ve been thinking of pursuing a master’s degree by taking advantage of my employer’s tuition reimbursement program. However, layoffs are coming (oil and gas prices) so just lots of uncertainty around if I should start school now and how long I want to stay in this industry after getting the degree etc.

    11. themmases*

      I think 6 months is the shortest requirement I’ve ever seen, and 1 year is a pretty normal minimum at places that have a policy.

      Maybe it would be wisest to talk to your boss about this. There may be opportunities you don’t know about, for example if they’re planning to add roles that would be more interesting to you. Starting or finishing a degree program is a pretty natural time to discuss your goals.

      If it were me I’d talk to my boss about what I see myself doing generally without commenting on whether I see room for that at the organization or not, and just see what their response is. Then if there really isn’t something coming up that would be a good fit, and your boss seems to realize that moving on will be the right choice for you eventually, raise your concerns about the degree.

      Good and even middling bosses will realize when someone who reports to them is starting to exhaust the opportunities available to them at that company. They might be sorry to see you go but it doesn’t reflect negatively on you when people understand your trajectory. I didn’t get my old employer to pay for my MS– I left to do it full time and it was definitely the right choice for me– but when I did leave there were really no hard feelings because everyone had realized it would be my next step for a while by the time I went.

    12. Agile Phalanges*

      It seems that most companies that DO have a claw-back policy have it last one or two years, and often the longer ones have a graduated claw-back (leave in six months, pay 100% back, leave in a year, pay 50%, etc.). So I’d say staying a year after receiving it would probably be a minimum. Maybe start looking at the one year mark, so it’ll be closer to 18 months by the time you’re likely to actually leave, depending on how long the search process takes? Though I do agree with the poster who suggested talking to your boss (or other mentors within your company) to see about options for moving up or even just taking on new duties within your current company. That could be the best of both worlds, even if you still intend to leave the company after a while–you’d have a longer period of time after receiving the degree, but get some fresh tasks and responsibilities to keep your interest while you wait for that period to be over.

    13. Miles*

      There’s no particular term unless you agreed on something. If the company is no longer a good fit, move on, and don’t guilt yourself into staying. Staying at a position where you’re miserable will only be mutually harmful.

      Especially if you’re moving into a new field.

  4. Frequent poster, anon here*

    I’m hopping on this thread early because I would love your advice on what to wear to my interview in 4 hours!

    I have an “interview suit” that I usually wear for everything, but I’m not sure how it would be read in this context. I am interviewing for a support position in an academic department. I have a PhD in the discipline, and the head of the search committee actually said on my phone interview, “We’re curious why you applied because you are way overqualified for this job.” Given that, it is important that I don’t look like I think I’m interviewing for a faculty position, or a foot in the door for a faculty position. I’m a little nervous that if I wear the suit, I’ll look too much like a faculty job candidate, so maybe I should dress more like I would for an actual day in the support job, with the suit skirt, blouse, and cardigan or something like that. On the other hand, I don’t want not wearing a suit to be read as disrespect for the support role or department, like I take the job less seriously than I should.

    Whether the job is a good fit is something I’m really not sure of myself, but the interview will be a good way to help figure that out. I don’t want to harm my chances with how I dress.

    1. Sarasaurus*

      I would go with the suit :). Granted, I’m not in academia, but I can’t imagine anyone thinking twice about it. Besides, I think erring on the side of slightly overdressed is always safer than going more casual.

    2. Adam*

      Hmmm…I’ve never interviewed for a job anywhere in academia except for a student library position back when I was in college (one of my favorite jobs), but on the outside looking my general impression was that most staff operated under a business casual style of dress most of the time.

      With that thought in mind I think your proposed outfit would probably be fine? If they are concerned that you are applying for something well below your usual career level then I might dress as nice as I could without going full on business suit.

      Hopefully others have better ideas. Good luck!

      1. Adam*

        But I do agree with Sarasaurus that erring on the side of overdressed is nearly always better than being under-dressed.

      2. Spooky*

        But the general rule I’ve heard about interviewing is to one-up the dress code (eg if people wear jeans to the office, wear business casual to the interview; if the office is business casual, wear a suit.)

    3. ZSD*

      I have a PhD and used to work in university administration (not academic positions). I’d wear the suit!

    4. Dangerfield5*

      I work in academic support and, while dress is very casual on a day to day basis, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at someone wearing a suit to an interview. I’ve usually done a step down – sheath dress, cardigan and work heels – and been offered two out of three jobs I’ve interviewed for, so I’m guessing it’s acceptable!

    5. Kira Nerys*

      I’d suggest wearing the suit, provided it is on the more formal business side. The reason for that is that the current trend in most academic disciplines is toward faculty candidates wearing *less* formal clothes for their interviews, so wearing the more formal stuff will; help mark you as not an academic candidate. Does that make sense? When I was trying the academic market last year, I got a lot of feedback telling me to ditch the suit or skirt/blazer in favor of a skirt or slacks with a cardiagan or button up on its own.

      Best of luck with this interview – I’m in your same boat and am going a bit crazy and feeling pretty awful about my prospects. I keep getting turned down for jobs for the ‘overqualified’ reason, which is often followed with some faculty member sending me a well-intended message about how they don’t want to see me give up on the academic market, and I’m feeling pretty hopeless right now. But knowing that someone has scores an interview is uplifting!

      1. Frequent poster, anon here*

        Wait, WHAT? I’ve been wearing my suit for faculty interviews, too! (What? I want a job.) From what I know about this department is not on the more formal business side.

        The post-PhD job market is really hard to crack. Honestly, this is the first non-faculty academic role I’ve gotten an interview for, and it clearly helps that I used to work on a project out of this department before grad school (so not only was I able to talk about that connection in my cover letter, but it turns out the search committee chair is married to the PI, who spoke well of me). It would be nice to be able to decide what we’re “overqualified” for, which I think means which jobs we’d get bored in and leave quickly, for ourselves instead of getting weeded out early. Good luck to you!

    6. notfunny.*

      I would wear the suit. I think that for interviews at academic institutions, you only opt to not wear a suit if you know the field very well (or know your interviewers). Most people who interview for an academic support position will probably be wearing a suit, so it’s not going to make you look like a faculty job candidate, just a candidate for this role.

    7. Lucky*

      Parroting what others have said, but maybe wear a more casual t-shirt style blouse instead of button-down or silk blouse? So, still a suit but dressed down a bit.

    8. GOG11*

      I am in a support position in academia and I’ve wore a suit to every interview I’ve done (interview for each role I’ve been hired for, and another for a role I didn’t get). A suit would be pretty standard for an interview for that type of role. I’d focus on explaining why you applied and what you’re looking for and let your and their interview conversation help you both figure out fit – I really don’t think wearing a suit will carry that much weight.

    9. matcha123*

      I would wear the suit. You can always unbutton the jacket, or take it off, if you get a less formal vibe.

    10. BRR*

      I’d wear a suit. I don’t think your outfit is going to sway their thoughts on your fit for the position/

    11. Frequent poster, anon here*

      Thanks all. Suit it is! I know my appearance isn’t going to make or break the interview, but it’s something I can control, so it’s something worth thinking about.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I agree with everyone else that wearing the suit is fine – but I’d make sure the shirt you wear underneath it is ok on its own in case you want to take off the jacket if everyone else in the room is in jeans or if the room is 80 degrees because the heat is on the fritz.

        But I think now that you’ve controlled what you are going to wear – do you have your answer for “why do you want this job, you’re way overqualified?” nailed down since you know they’ll ask it?

    12. AnotherHRPro*

      Wear the suit. You will never really hurt your chances by being overdressed. But being under-dressed could be a problem.

    13. FowlTemptress*

      I’m in a support role and can’t imagine wearing anything other than a suit to an interview. Wear the suit.

    14. Ghost Town*

      The suit will be fine. Honestly, what you say you’d wear in the actual day-to-day would be fine, too. Unless it is business/law/the like. Then, definitely the suit.

      The suit will not hurt, but I would echo what other commentors say about dressing it down and making sure you are wearing a shirt in which you would be comfortable going jacket-less.

      I work at a university, in program/academic administration. No PhD for me, though.

  5. Sarasaurus*

    I’d just like to say upfront that I realize how incredibly petty and immature this sounds, but I’m really struggling and would love some advice on how to keep my feelings in check.

    I’m very pregnant and will most likely be starting my maternity leave sometime in the next couple of weeks. We brought in someone from a different department (I’ll call her Jane) to cover my leave. She started this week, and is catching on fast. I think she’ll do a great job – which is the problem! I am reasonably new to the working world (early-mid 20s) and have only been in my job about a year. It’s my 2nd job out of college. Jane has several more years of experience than I do, and has held slightly higher-level positions than I have. My anxiety is through the roof. I’m constantly worrying that Jane will be better at my job than I am, that my boss will like her more and wish she hired her instead, that she’ll get along better with my coworkers…etc, etc. It just doesn’t stop.

    I played a big role in the decision to bring Jane on board. My boss made it clear that she wanted my input, and has stated many times that my job will be here for me when I come back. Even so, I can’t shake the feeling that everyone will be disappointed when I return. I like my job a lot, and want to do it really well! I feel like I’m going kind of crazy over this. I hate to blame emotions on pregnancy hormones, but maybe they’re playing a role? Has anyone been in a similar position? How did you get yourself to chill out?

    1. Kate*

      I don’t think it’s pregnancy hormones, because my husband went through the same thing when he went on paternity leave.

      1. Raphael*

        Hi Sarasaurus,

        It’s totally natural to wonder about the people who are replacing you on parental leave. In my case, I hired a junior to take over some of the workload and the supervision of this junior fell to my supervisor. Because the junior I hired (for a permanent position including after I returned from parental leave) had the same educational and experiential qualifications as me, I wondered if I would find myself less needed when I returned from leave. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. My junior is very competent but does not have the company-specific experience I have. He is an excellent addition to the team, and is not squeezing me out. But I did worry …

    2. Adam*

      I have little to no experience with pregnancy (but congratulations!) but I can definitely speak to unwarranted anxiety. The best description I ever heard to describe anxiety (as opposed to realistic wariness or concern) is that anxiety is your brain using black magic to convince yourself that a.) you are a horrible person and/or b.) that the worst case scenario is the most likely one. And then you choose to fixate on that even though there many more less serious (and far more likely!) possibilities.

      The best I’ve been able to do is not to fight the anxiety as it’s largely fruitless and draining to do so. Instead I tell myself to “let it rest” and walk away and find something else to do. Anxiety based thoughts rarely ever change, so if you accept them for what they are and refrain from placing importance on them eventually the become rather boring and fall away on their own.

      Good luck!

      1. Sarasaurus*

        I love that description! Thank you so much for your input, it is genuinely reassuring to know that I’m not alone in these kinds of thoughts and I’m not just being dramatic!

      2. TootsNYC*

        This somewhat echoes some of the cognitive behavioral training my son got for an anxiety-driven problem of his.

        It’s fruitless to fight anxiety. In fact, that only makes it stronger.
        The tactic they suggest is to give in to it, and actually heighten the physical symptoms of anxiety then wait it out.

        Because the human body can feel strong emotion for only so long.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sometimes you have to walk through the center of the fire to get out of the fire.

          Okay so let’s talk about your nightmare, OP. Let’s pretend that this actually happens. You get replaced.
          What’s next?
          Reality is that you will put your resume together and someone else will hire you and they will be delighted to have you. Your life will go on, you will have your little one, who will be a joy in your life and your new employer will be saying how lucky they are to have found you.

          Sometimes we hit things that feel like a fork in the road in life. And it’s not a fork in the road. Life goes on in an uneventful way. Remind yourself of times you felt this antsy before and think about those outcomes. The situation probably got resolved and probably was no where near the extremes it could have been. The thing we worry about often times never comes to fruition. And if it does, it’s much tamer than anything we imagined.

          Lastly, it’s fine to have feelings, it’s part of being human. What is not fine is to act on those feelings. I believe in the concept of misplaced anxiety. I can get anxious over one thing and everything else does not bother me any where near as much. One thing I do with my anxiety/nervousness is go back and make sure I have my ducks in a row. Are my bills paid? How are the brakes on my car, have they been checked lately? I check all these mundane things to make sure everything is in order. This activity distracts my mind from the worry and sometimes I actually find some that needs my attention. It seems unrelated, but by straightening these other things out, my anxiety goes down. Misplaced anxiety. I was probably ignoring one of these things and did not realize by ignoring it, I was wearing myself out. Channel that extra energy into something that benefits you in some manner.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Also: Anxiety triggers adrenaline, so hey–use it up! Make it work for you.

            So yes, go tackle some other thing that causes OTHER anxieties. Even if your main anxiety is work, let it fuel you for some other thing. You might reduce incidental anxieties by paying bills, etc., and then you’ll only have one anxiety around.

    3. Dangerfield5*

      It’s natural to be anxious just before you go through any huge life change. Is it possible that you’re just generally concerned about how having a baby will change your home and work life and sublimating it onto your maternity cover?

    4. Anoners*

      I think you need to try and relax (easier said than done, I know). You can’t change anything now, and your fears are really unlikely to come true. We’ve had around 10 mat leaves in the last year, and even though we had some great contracts fill in, no one for a second was disappointed when the employee came back (it’s actually the opposite, people are excited for them to return). It sounds like you’re struggling with a bit of anxiety at the moment (not diagnosing you, but I’ve had similar anxiety struggles with different situations). I find having a third party reassure me that I’m my thoughts are getting a bit unmanageable/unrealistic helps me when my anxiety is spiraling. Different things for different people, but I find getting an outside reality check helps me a lot. Enjoy your remaining time at work, I’m sure your coworkers will miss you/ be excited for you to come back!

    5. ElCee*

      I have anxiety and can see myself feeling the same way–which is an indication (at least to me) that the fear isn’t rational!
      If you’re like me, thinking through a worst-case scenario thinking isn’t always helpful, but does sometimes lay out the less realistic aspects of the situation you fear. For example. So she does a great job and everyone loooooooves her. Even IF that happens, and IF it is such a strong and widely held feeling among the staff (rare. I can count on one finger the number of coworkers I have loved THAT much), then the most they would do would be find another place for her. Create a new position, say. I mean technically anything is possible, but a campaign to remove a full-time staff member to bring on a temp, even if she’s great, is way beyond the effort and caring level of most people.
      Anyway congratulations and start worrying about the immediate concerns, e.g. the lack of sleep in your future, instead. ;) I am sure your job will be fine!

    6. Kyrielle*

      Pregnancy hormones absolutely can exacerbate stress (I had to deal with this in a previous pregnancy) and may or may not be doing so here. Honestly? I think you’ll be fine – it sounds like Jane is really a little bit *over* qualified for this role. Which is handy in picking it up for the duration of your leave, but she’ll probably be glad to get back to roles more at her level.

      Also…when you return, in theory she returns to her department, right? So if you find yourself “falling short” of the bar she set, you can reach out to her and ask questions if need be? (“Jane, I’m so glad you were able to cover my leave – I’ve been hearing great things about how that went. It sounds like you were able to turn around the teapot lid statistics report much faster; could you give me some tips as to how to do that?”)

      That’s if that actually materializes, which it may not. You may come back to find that things went fine in your absence, you’re not being compared, and/or that Jane is *super* relieved to get back to other things.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I’ve had similar feelings just when hiring freelancers–I’ve just hired someone to work for me who is just as qualified as I am. In fact, once upon a time, I took her head-of-department job when she left it, so I’ve followed in her footprints.

      The fact is this: At any given time, lots of people can do your job as well as you can. Better, even.
      But it is YOUR job. You have it right now.

      And you’ll have it when you come back. So just do it the best that you can.

      Steal anything (wisdom, procedures, habits, info) from Jane that you can while she’s around, and then just do your job well.
      It is still -your- job.

    8. Terra*

      If Jane has several more years of experience and is picking up the job very quickly and easily it’s entirely possible she won’t want to stay long term. Easy jobs are boring, boredom can very quickly become a kind of burnout.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This–plus, there’s no guarantee that she’ll do a better job. She might just do an adequate job. Especially if she is bored and/or just looking at it as a temporary thing.

    9. Gwensoul*

      I had the same fear, so totally normal! I just got back from leave a month ago and I can say that even though my replacement did a great job, there is just so much internal knowledge they cannot have without having been there as long as you have and having built the relationships you have built.

      I read emails while on leave and responded to a handful that were urgent which made me feel connected, but coming back I got so many people who were glad I was back, hopefully it can be the same for you.

      All the smiley baby sleep wishes to you!

    10. Rat Racer*

      Well, the flip side is that going out on maternity leave and then coming back into the workforce gives you an opportunity to re-prioritize and re-shuffle your projects. When I was working for a consulting firm, I had someone take over for me when I went out on maternity leave; when I came back, I had some flexibility around which projects I took back, and which I could hand over to the person who filled in for me while I was gone. It was actually kind of refreshing, and a chance to divest of some old boring work that was never going anywhere and take on new things.

      Consulting is obviously primed for that kind of fluidity, but even in a job where projects and tasks are perpetual, there may be opportunities to flex your skill set. And don’t forget that when most people get back from maternity leave, they’re looking for a slow and gentle transition back into their corporate responsibilities.

      This is all looking on the bright side of your worst case scenario; but most of the time, when people come back from leave, they take back the work they left behind. I don’t think you need to worry about this – you’ll have plenty of other things to think about once that new little person enters your life :)

    11. AnotherHRPro*

      This is totally normal. Please just take your boss at her word. Your job will be there. And it is good for you if Jane does well. It means you won’t walk into a mess when you return. Focus on yourself and your new addition to your family.

    12. Oryx*

      I have anxiety and I find that if I’m worried/stressed out about something I have literally zero control over (maybe something skin to having a baby) I tend to start stressing about other things that I *do* have some level of control over (like a job you’re good at). Somehow the misplaced/misdirected anxiety distracts me from the bigger issue, but then it makes me paranoid regarding the thing I don’t need to be paranoid about.

      Because I know this is something that happens to me ALL THE TIME I’m usually self-aware enough to recognize when it’s happening and can talk myself off the ledge and analyze what is really making me anxious.

      1. Sarasaurus*

        That’s really interesting and definitely sounds like what I’m experiencing, as well. You described it much better than I could. Thanks for reassuring me that I’m not alone!

    13. E*

      I just returned from maternity leave 2 weeks ago, and I was in the same position. The person hired to fill my duties actually ended up leaving a couple of weeks before my return, which threw the office into a lot of chaos and they were very happy for my return. Regardless, I know I was anxious about my leave and how my return would work out, but I knew that I did a great job at work and they’d make sure I was employed on my return. Try not to stress, and enjoy that baby!

    14. Cleo*

      Hey, I just returned to work 2 weeks ago from maternity leave. It’s a difficult situation no matter what you do. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure my teams and all my projects still ran smoothly while I was out, while at the same time not making it seem like I didn’t need to be there at all.
      Everyone did a great job while I was gone, but I had several people tell me they were glad I was back because it just wasn’t the same with the other person.
      And just be prepared, your precious little one will take up all your time, thoughts, and engergy. Especially those first couple of weeks. My boss stopped by to bring me dinner and meet my little one when she was about three weeks old (he’s a really great boss!!) and jokingly asked if I missed work yet. It wasn’t until that point that realized I hadn’t even thought about work and certainly wasn’t wondering if anyone missed me yet.
      Congrats on your new addition! Focus on them, not work. The time is going to fly by, so enjoy it!

  6. Adam*

    When researching a company as a prospective employer how much weight do you give to websites like Glassdoor and their anonymous employee reviews? I’ll always take a quick look before I apply and the majority of the time the reviews tend to trend towards the negative. Of the last five applications I’ve sent only one company’s reviews were an overall net positive.

    I’m never sure how much credence to give these reviews, particularly with the mentality that people who are dissatisfied/angry with their employer are much more likely to write reviews than people who are generally happy. For example my own organization’s Glassdoor profile isn’t great (a less than 2 star rating) and many of the listed complaints are pretty consistent (don’t approve of higher ups, lackluster pay, etc.). In fact, the Glassdoor profile became such an issue that all our managers ended up having a big meeting over it to discuss “company culture”. My own personal experience with the organization isn’t really that bad, but I can’t really disagree with the common complaints and I’m also somewhat blessed in that my position for the most part operates in its own little bubble away from where a lot of the dysfunction happens.

    I usually don’t let the online reviews keep me from applying to a job I want, but I still wonder how serious I should take this information as my desire for a new job may at some point overreach my sense to jump from one not super situation to another. Of course if I ever do get an interview I will do my best to figure out a company for myself, but it would be nice if I could save myself some time here and there.

    1. Yggdrasil*

      I’ve never worked for an organization whose Glassdoor reviews were excessively harsh. If anything, some of them were overly generous. So if I see a pattern with a company’s reviews, I tend to give it some consideration.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      I try to look at the reviews overall, and I read the comments. You can often “read between the lines” on some of them. (This goes for both positive and negative comments.) But I don’t let that be the be-all and end-all of how I look at the company. It’s just one more piece of data to add to the others.

    3. Laura*

      I always look at Glassdoor reviews and take into account the negative ones– but it’s important to look at what the bad things are, and if they matter to you that much.

      I wish I’d looked up my first job out of college on Glassdoor. The reviews would have prevented me from falling prey to the recruiter’s claims which were clearly just to get me on board. If you see anything truly alarming on Glassdoor, it’s worth asking about it in interviews. Just take the comments there with a grain of salt.

    4. dr_silverware*

      I wouldn’t go just by the stars. It’s definitely different from, like, Amazon reviews or Yelp reviews where the aggregate is decent; the roles those people are reporting from are all “customer.” I think you’d want to filter out the negative reviews by their role at the company, and if it’s similar to what you’re applying for; if their complaints actually matter to you–like “lackluster pay,” if you feel like it’s enough for you anyway, you know? Further, it’s kind of hard to read into the reviews themselves, but looking at who the people complaining are: does the company hire people early in their working lives?

      Basically I’d read the reviews and keep them in mind when you do go interview, and see if they’re borne out in your direct experience.

      I’m in a similar position to you, in that there are ten million complaints and negative Glassdoor reviews, but I’m fairly isolated from those negative things, because they’re totally different roles from mine. My company is also in the weird position of pretty universally employing early-career folks in roles that would be way better suited to more experienced people (not that I’m complaining about good entry-level work :p ).

      1. Jade*

        Yes yes yes. It’s a good idea to filter by location and position, because one department or office may be terrible while another is great. For example, a previous employer of mine has some pretty negative reviews, but my dept there (which isn’t represented in the reviews) was awesome, and it was my favorite job to date.

        I also second the importance of looking at specific complaints. The more specific and consistent the complaints, the more likely I think they are to be red-flags that you should ask about if you get an interview. Generally speaking I think the more level-headed reviews are more trustworthy, because it shows me that the person who wrote it is reasonable enough to recognize the problems and evaluate within their context that this is something people might not like (rather than just getting angry and venting online).

    5. Shiara*

      I wouldn’t refuse to apply to a company based solely on glassdoor reviews. I have found them useful in terms of inspiring questions during the interview and generally keeping an eye out for particular red flags. It’s worth keeping an eye on the dates of the reviews and how many there are and if they specify particular roles or departments that are more complained about than another.

    6. oldfashionedlovesong*

      I have a tendency when job-searching to put potential positions on a pedestal (say that five times fast!) so I find Glassdoor to be useful in bringing myself back down to reality. I tend to give more credence to the overall pool of reviews for a given company when, as you mention, they’re consistent in what they criticize– but also what they compliment. I like when reviewers include what their position is or was so I can give more weight to reviews submitted by people in positions similar to what I’m applying for. Interns might all have great experiences with Company A, but if mid-level employees at the same company seem across the board unhappy, that’s useful information for me as a junior-to-mid level employee. And of course I find Glassdoor to be extremely useful for the salary reports, because postings in my field overwhelmingly do not include salary information.

    7. Sarasaurus*

      My current company went through a hard transitional period about a year before I joined, and the Glassdoor reviews from that time were overwhelmingly negative, to the point where I was really concerned. I actually brought it up during my final interview, and was happy that they didn’t skirt around the issue. Instead, I felt like their response was really transparent. They acknowledged that they went through a rough reorganization, that employee morale took a dip, they were doing x, y, and z to correct it, and things had improved in measurable ways. Having been here a year now, I couldn’t be happier!
      I definitely think a pattern of negative reviews has some credibility and shouldn’t be ignored, but it also shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all when it comes to making your decision. Where to work is a personal decision – different environments work well for different people, and your dream job might be someone else’s nightmare.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I definitely think a pattern of negative reviews has some credibility and shouldn’t be ignored, but it also shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all when it comes to making your decision. Where to work is a personal decision – different environments work well for different people, and your dream job might be someone else’s nightmare.

        This. My current company has about an average rating on Glassdoor with a lot of not-so-great to full on negative reviews from current and former employees. Excepting the division I was in last year (and the issues with my manager in particular), and our crap health insurance, I love everything else about the company. And upon further reading of the negative Glassdoor reviews, most of them are from people in our satellite offices and/or our smaller divisions – the corporate office where I work pretty much has good to glowing reviews. You just never know until you know the internal workings of the company, which you can only hope to find out if you apply and are selected for an interview.

    8. Amanda*

      Take it with a grain of salt! Glassdoor does provide a good general insight into a company’s culture so it’s a useful tool, but be careful as ratings can be completely skewed.

      I know of companies that either pay someone to write positive reviews, OR “strongly encourage” employees to write a positive review. I’ve also heard of competitors writing nasty reviews to undermine a company’s reputation.

      The best way to get to know a company’s culture is meet people who work there – either through networking, or through the interview process.

      Also, the bigger the company, the greater the culture is going to differ from department to department, so keep that in mind. I worked at a 260k-person global bank which had a pretty solid Glassdoor rating, even though I experienced 2 completely different team cultures while there – one positive, one not so great. In my current 75-person company, the culture is really consistent across all teams.

    9. Terra*

      For the stars you can mentally bump the score up by half or a whole star to account for the fact that people tend to leave negative reviews more often. Generally I’d skim them and if you see a clear pattern it’s probably worth considering or bringing up in an interview. Things that are all over the place or sometimes very generic are probably safer to ignore. Also, only you know your tolerance for things.

    10. Kyrielle*

      I look at the actual text of the reviews as much as the overall rating. For the most part, I would be inclined to use it only as one data point – things to watch out for / suss out in the interview stage – although sometimes, I will avoid applying if the overall impression pre-application (including but not limited to glassdoor) is negative. (Either due to my having familiarity with the company from other contexts, or because the job add makes me think “Uh oh, need to watch out for problem X” and then the glassdoor says it’s flatly rampant. I am not the 80-hour-weeks all-the-time developer they want, thanks.)

      Other times I read the text and I just blink. It’s like…uh, your “cons” are my “awesome place to work” folks. (My current company, for example, is dinged for not having enough advancement opportunities because *people stay with the company too long and don’t leave, so openings – at all levels – aren’t created fast enough*. That…actually made me even more eager to apply. Heh.)

    11. Laurel Gray*

      How I do it:

      1.) I look for roles of people that are in departments similar to ones I would be in if I was at that employer and read those reviews.
      2.) I look for whether the review is as a current or former employee and look at the stars
      3.) I look for specific versus vague complaints “Teapot Inc seems to lack diversity the higher you go on the food chain – there’s no women, people of color, disabled or LGBT people in middle or senior management” vs “Teapots Inc is racist and sexist and homophobic!”
      4.) I look for the frequency of words in reviews that appeal to me in my job search and what employees are saying: “work life balance” “flexibility” “promotion” “career development” “advancement” and such
      5.) I look to see if someone from the employer ever responds to reviews and if so, which ones. I would rather an employer not respond to any than only respond to their positive ones ignoring the negative
      6.) If enough of the same praise or complaint shows up, I take that into overall consideration. For example, if 5 Project Managers in the DC area list pay as a “con” and mention they are paid lower than competitor’s, I’m more inclined to believe it.
      7.) Date of review should be considered too. Companies evolve. I am more inclined to focus on 2014 – current reviews.

      This may sound like it is a long process but it really is only no more than 5 minutes per company. I haven’t stumbled across many employers who I absolutely positively could not work for in my area based on glass door reviews.

    12. Jinx*

      I’ve backed out of interview processes because of glassdoor reviews (but that was during my college search, when I felt like I was applying *everywhere*). In all the cases where I decided to withdraw, it was because a) the same major complaint (i.e. work-life balance, excessive travel, etc.) repeated multiple times, rather than one isolated negative comment and b) the interview process was arduous. The one I remember most vividly has a two-month interview process including several exams, an on-site visit, and multiple full-day interviews. I wasn’t willing to do that for a company that gave me bad vibes on glassdoor.

    13. Small town reporter*

      I had an interview with one company big enough to get some pretty serious negative Glassdoor reviews. The comments were consistent about the expectations for working overtime and some strange company culture things. I brought them up in my interview and the company gave me a decent-sounding answer, though I was fairly certain it was baloney. The answer, combined with a really strange response I got when I contacted a former reporter for that organization (she seemed horrified that I could figure out who she was, even though her bylines were in the publication and she had a linkedin profile, and the way she said no, she wouldn’t answer my questions raised my eyebrows further), led me to turn down the job offer. A few months later, whoever it was who did take the job posted similar, very negative comments on Glassdoor again and I was very relieved I had taken it seriously. It wouldn’t have stopped me from applying, but it made me ask good questions and do some more follow up, which I think saved me from making a terrible move.

    14. AnotherHRPro*

      Glassdoor reviews are just one piece of data. Your interview experience, research on the company, job fit, total compensation are some of the others. Because Glassdoor reviews can be all over the map it is hard to determine what is real. Take into consideration how many reviews there are and how big the organization is to get a sense of how indicative the comments are of the total employee base. For example, a company with 10,000 that has 100 negative reviews may not be a problem at all. But a company with 500 employees with 100 negative reviews might be a problem.

    15. themmases*

      I look at the pattern of comments. If people seem to agree on an issue that would definitely bother me, I might not apply. If there are big recent internal changes that a lot of people seem not to like, that turns me off most. I know the people who left or were pushed out might be the ones complaining on Glassdoor, but on the other hand the complaints about how the culture at my old company changed after a move are completely true and even undersold in my opinion.

      A very unpopular and unorthodox change in how people at my partner’s company are compensated after a promotion recently made it onto Glassdoor. I could see someone not believing that review because the policy makes no sense, but it’s true and I hope people wanting to move up in that company see it and think twice (or that the company realizes they don’t want to be associated with that policy and finally changes it).

    16. ModernHypatia*

      I used the comments a couple of times in my last job search to guide questions I either asked or that I just listened to comments about. (Like, if all the Glassdoor comments were about how leadership doesn’t listen, I’d see what people said in the actual interview.)

      I think it also depends massively on the organization: some places are pretty siloed, and one department can be great, and another can be lousy, and they have different reporting chains (until you get close to the top), different priorities, different kinds of jobs, and everything else.

    17. Lucky Charm*

      In my own personal experience, the Glassdoor reviews I’ve read for the companies I’ve studied up on or ended up working at were pretty spot on. Of course, I put a lot more weight towards specific feedback rather than the garden variety “This place is horrible!” stuff.

      For example, I interviewed at a company (“Animal House”) several years ago and the process was horrible (i.e. keeping me waiting 2 hours past the interview time, tons of interruptions, a clear lack of interest, etc.). I later on learned that the work environment was really similar and it was just a crummy place to work in general.

      Since then, I have had several friends and professional acquaintances who have ended up working at Animal House. All of them had similar interview and work experiences – basically, they hire you, burn you out, and you end up quitting within six months. If you look at the Glassdoor reviews, all of them say the same thing, with specific information.

    18. Rubyrose*

      At this point, I don’t use Glassdoor. I submitted two reviews. The first one just never got posted. They rejected the second one because I used the term “my manager”, and that was deemed too personal. So I rephrase and they said it was OK. Never saw it again. Perhaps you can’t see your own reviews? Seems odd to me.

    19. nerfmobile*

      I look for themes, not just the ratings. For instance, my company (a pretty big one) has some consistent themes in Glassdoor reviews. They are quite consistent with my experience here. From the outside looking at those themes, there is one group that I would avoid at all costs, and one particular role (that exists across groups) that I would have a lot of questions to ask about. Just stars wouldn’t tell you that the rest of the roles and groups are pretty good.

    20. BatterUp*

      I take them seriously, particularly if there is a significant amount of them.

      My last employer, a national nonprofit organization, has hundreds of negative reviews, which are very consistent in what they cover, despite coming from a wide variety of positions (current and former employees) and a wide variety of regions. This number increases regularly, as turnover there is so high. While I was there, the organizational leadership would frequently encourage favored employees to leave positive reviews… so if you look at the Glassdoor page, you will see a number of 5 star reviews, and a ton of 1-2 star reviews. I regret not paying attention to these when I accepted a job there, but I was so desperate for employment after a 4 month post-layoff job hunt. Every single bad review turned out to be right on the nose.

    21. Liz*

      I liked to read them to see what the complaints were, and whether or not I thought they would relate to me first. If there were a large number of similar yet terrible reviews, then I might give them some stock

      One instance I was researching my specific to-be-managers, and there was an absolutely scathing review of them on some (admittedly sketchy) site. My gut instinct was to freak a bit, but I also recognized that people post the terrible, and for someone to make a post like that, they are probably the problem. After joining the team, these managers are some of the best people I have met and it is impossible for me to imagine them acting like the reviewer said.

    22. Tau*

      I’m with the others – look for patterns in the comments, and check locations/roles/dates giving more weight to those reviews closer to your own.

      I checked Glassdoor for one of the companies I’d applied for and not only were the negative comments agreeing about an issue I didn’t think I could stomach, the positive ones were as well – alongside the complaints of extremely long hours and heavy workloads were reviews a la “you can thrive if you’re willing to put in the work.” and “It can be great experience, but it’s not a place for people who want to come in at nine on the dot and leave at five on the dot.” I figured that sort of commonality was extremely telling, and since I decided I *would*, in fact, quite like to come in at nine and leave at five…

  7. Lucky Charm*

    Freelance writers – how have you expanded your client base and/or grown your business?

    I’ve been a freelance writer for 10 years. I write primarily for one publication on a regular basis. I cover a very niche sport, so there aren’t a ton of paid opportunities out there. (This is my side gig to my full-time job, which includes some writing but is primarily in the marketing space.) I’m putting together a portfolio site that will also include a blog that I can direct potential clients to. Writers – what have you tried and what has worked for you?

    1. NarrowDoorways*

      Well, coming from the editorial side, having just hired half a dozen freelancers…

      Site and blog are amazing. It was frustrating when writers applied and I couldn’t get a clear understanding of their writing abilities. Also, LinkedIn has a publishing format where you could speak about what you do and lessons learned. I like LinkedIn, but don’t know if everyone checks there.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Thanks for sharing that link; bookmarking.

        I always feel guilty when this topic comes up. I know I should have more irons in the fire because even if I all my books were published it doesn’t pay worth a crap, but writing content makes me really unhappy.

    2. em2mb*

      It sounds like you do some reporting. If so, one thing that’s set our best freelancers apart is their presence on social media. If you have a bit of a following on Twitter for your sport, it makes it show that other people take your work/writing seriously.

  8. ZSD*

    Hey, could you guys help with something? The comment period on the proposed rule to ensure all federal contractors can earn paid sick time is open. This rule will ensure that even low-wage workers at contractors will be able to stay home when they have the flu and still get paid. Could you take a moment to submit a comment in favor of the rule?
    (Relevant links to follow in a reply.)

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I have no “proof” of this statement but it is common sense. If a person comes in sick, it can and will be spread around and more people will be sick. Some of the people who get sick may have sick leave and productivity will be lost if those people get sick and stay home. Example, janitor comes in with a pretty serious bug. Think about all that the janitor touches. The departmental accountant, the big boss’s secretary, the big boss, President Obama’s cook, etc. all get sick and since these people do have sick leave, they stay home. Think about the wasted productivity.

      1. ZSD*

        Thanks! Would you consider submitting a formal comment about that, and specifically saying that you’re in favor of the rule?

  9. Anon for today*

    Last week I asked for help with my friend’s resume when it looked like she was going to get thrown back in the workforce after a major life change in her mid-fifties.

    I want to thank everyone who responded for your ideas and well wishes. I really appreciate it and I’m sure she will too when it comes time to really focus on job hunting.

  10. Lucky Charm*

    Has anyone heard from the commentator C Average lately? I was reading through some archived posts this week and forgot how much I enjoy her perspective.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I know that she hasn’t commented as much now that she doesn’t work outside the home. I miss her around here, too!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She pops in from time to time still, since leaving her job. She had some posts on these recent threads:

      (Hope that’s not creepy of me to know, C Average.)

    3. fposte*

      She did say she was probably not going to be posting much since she was going to be focusing on her writing. But in case she’s looking in, hi, C!

    4. Lily in NYC*

      And whatever happened to Jamie? Does she still post here? I don’t recall seeing her around for a long while.

        1. Shell*

          Now I’m curious as to how many regulars you mentally keep track of, Alison. :) (There’s so many of us!)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Oooo- I like this question. Do you have a little chart to work as a memory jogger, Alison? Or do you just rely on memory, yours and ours?

            I know it helps me to see posters using each other names. I remember better when I see the name in “conversation”.

  11. Hello Felicia*

    Last week someone mentioned fulfilling work. How many people have jobs that fulfill you personally?

    My job is very much so, but there is a downside I hadn’t anticipated. People who work in our department do much better if they are sympathetic vs. empathetic. Empathetic people tend to end up very very depressed and get burned out. However, since it’s such a great place to work and you get to feel great about helping people, we’ve had people who are not a good fit who don’t want recognize that fact. We had someone that we had counselled repeatedly that simply couldn’t keep up with the workload, in part because she spent a lot of time upset about what she was seeing. When we talked to her about needing to do x,y and z to keep her position or trying to find a better fit in another department or another company altogether she’d say “I’m doing the best I can, and I’m helping so many people”. She was a perfectly good employee, just not in the position she was in. We ended up having to fire her which felt a lot like kicking a puppy, but will be better in the long run for everyone.

    1. Folklorist*

      I find my job very fulfilling! I work for an educational engineering magazine. It’s not something I ever thought I would do–I was always much more of an arts/culture storyteller, but not as much into science. (The closest I thought I would get to science would be writing about environmental conservation.)

      But I kind of fell into this and love it! Part of this is because my boss is great and lets me explore different ways my passions for art and culture mix in the engineering community. I also learn something new pretty much every day and get to talk to fascinating people doing fascinating work. On top of that, the organization is really big on work-life balance, and my boss always wants me to find ways to take more initiative/explore interesting personal projects. This is good for the magazine, because if I’m obsessed and interested in what I’m writing, it’s going to make for a much better article.

      My only complaint is that the pay could be better–but as someone told me when I got into journalism, “you’ll never be rich, but you’ll never be bored.” And he’s right! (Not to mention that steady print journalism jobs are hard to come by. Sheesh.)

    2. Laura*

      Great question! I work in higher education and I find my job extremely fulfilling. I don’t spend as much time helping students as I would like (there’s a lot of downtime and my manager is based elsewhere, so I don’t see her a lot) but when I’m “on,” I know I’m helping future generations immensely.

      Some of my coworkers definitely don’t have this mindset– they see their positions as placeholders while they get graduate degrees or search for something else. But I’m committed to making this a true career.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      My job is somewhat fulfilling. I work in direct human services in a way that sounds sort of similar to what you’re describing. With some clients it can be very fulfilling, but with many others it’s like any other customer service job–dealing with rude, difficult clients. There are also many clients who get themselves in the same situation over and over again, and it can just feel futile.
      Empathy fatigue isn’t a huge problem for me but the other stuff is.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      I’m in a very fulfilling job, and I very much enjoy helping people discern, articulate and pursue their career interests. But, you can’t care more about their outcomes than they do. Otherwise, every time a student doesn’t follow protocol on a resume, doesn’t follow up on networking, doesn’t review the resources you gave them, it’s going to bug you that they’re not living up to their potential/making the most of their opportunities/positioning themselves as best they can.

      This is all true, but it’s their choice not to do so.

    5. Dawn*

      I’m a Business Analyst, and I *love* my work. I love taking a problem or an issue and figuring out how to make everything work smoothly and in such a way that everyone is happy. I also get the warm fuzzies from problem solving, and it’s something that comes easily to me so I’m very happy to share my abilities with others and make everyone’s work lives easier.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      This has literally never happened to me. I can’t even imagine. I like my job and the people I work with, but it’s still just a job. I wouldn’t care that much if my personal life were fulfilling, but now thinking about how it isn’t has made me want to cry. :(

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Dunno if this helps. It’s a basic human need, on a par with food and water, it’s almost necessary for survival that we make a contribution to our area/society/family/whatever.

        Next step in logic. Define the word contribution. There’s contributions that we HAVE to make such as paying our taxes. Contributions that are expected from society do not feel like contributions. Then there are contributions that we Just Do and never think twice about. I gave Jane a ride to our meeting last week. Big Deal. I just was going through the course of my day that is all. On an immediate level, it’s not a gratifying contribution because it’s tiny. Then there are contributions that we WANT to make and just. can’t. seem. to get there. No gratification in that at all.

        I have had to rethink what a contribution to this world looks like. For example, EW, you read and comment here. I have always thought you do an outstanding job of cheering people on when they have a “win” and you do a great job of sympathizing with people who have had some misfortune. Your responses to people have warmed my heart many days and I know you have made people feel good. I’d like to encourage you to look closer at what making a contribution actually looks like, because right behind that is fulfillment. AAM is one example, you can take a second look at other parts of your life and you will probably find parallel examples. All too often we focus on what is missing and ignore what we have done so far.

        1. Jean*

          I’d like to encourage you to look closer at what making a contribution actually looks like, because right behind that is fulfillment. AAM is one example, you can take a second look at other parts of your life and you will probably find parallel examples.

          NSNR, thank you for another wise posting. The way you encouraged EW to recognize the positive impact she has on others is a technique that the rest of us can use also.

        2. Clever Name*

          I completely agree! One of the people I most admire admitted to me that their day job is just a job so he’ll have money to play with. He is pretty damn good at his job and is a true professional.

          I always look fr your posts. Your voice is really uplifting and heartening. :)

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I think every job I’ve had has been fulfilling in one sense or another.

      My current job gives me a chance to work with young people, work with old people, learn more code, and help folks. I’ve also got a short commute and decent (but not amazing, for our area) pay.

      I do think, though, there’s really no shame in having a non-fulfilling job if it pays your bills.

      1. Hello Felicia*

        Oh absolutely! I’ve had those jobs too. I tell myself that at I’ve learned something at each of them, even it was just ‘How to deal with it when your boss is a jerk’.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        I do think, though, there’s really no shame in having a non-fulfilling job if it pays your bills.

        Everybody can’t save the world all the time. And some people don’t want to even if they could, which is also perfectly valid.

        I like my job, I like it a lot, but it doesn’t fulfil me, and I don’t need it to. I need it to earn enough cash to pay down/off loans, pay my (very expensive) rent, buy pretty clothes, and take the occasional trip. I write and perform in my free time – that’s where I get my fulfillment.

      3. M-T*

        This! I teach HS, and I love it – it is 100% a calling for me, to the point where, if I were not getting paid for it, I would still find a way to be teaching. I find it immensely fulfilling…and when I come home from work, I’m wiped out, or I still have work to do.

        My wife, on the other hand, has a job that she likes just fine, but about which she is not nearly as passionate – she enjoys it, she’s good at it, but it doesn’t delight her the way mine does. Instead, she writes and paints, because those are the things that fulfill her (and because she has more free time, since she’s not grading homework).

        I honestly feel like the “Do What You Love” movement has some really toxic implications – people should do things that they love doing, for their own personal and spiritual satisfaction…but not everything somebody loves is going to be super-lucrative, and there’s nothing wrong with doing something else to pay the bills.

    8. Lillian McGee*

      I feel very fulfilled by my job too. We have a really important mission and a lot of people here are so very dedicated to it and it’s great! I work in the back office now whereas I used to do direct services and I definitely feel the difference… I was thanked A LOT more by clients than I am by staff, for example… But, I find fulfillment in many other things I do here.

    9. AnotherHRPro*

      I am very fulfilled by my job. And I can’t really think of a job I have ever had that I didn’t find fulfilling. I really enjoy what I do and the impact my work can have on an organization. I may not improve the general social fabric of society (healthcare, education, homeless, etc.) but I really enjoy my corporate job.

    10. ASJ*

      I guess I’m an odd man out as my job (admin assistant) doesn’t fulfill me at all. A lot of the time I don’t feel like what I do has any real value (anyone in the office could do my work, really) and it gets very frustrating to spend time helping people who refuse to follow directions and/or willfully make things more complicated than it needs to be… but it pays my bills for the most part and I can keep a roof over my head, and hopefully I’ll have a job that I love/is fulfilling.

    11. Claire (Scotland)*

      I’m a high school teacher and find my job very fulfilling. I love developing educational resources and being in the classroom with my students. It can be draining and exhausting at times, but in the end it is definitely fulfilling.

    12. themmases*

      I find my job extremely fulfilling. I am training to be a cancer epidemiologist with a focus on disparities in treatment and survival, so basically the purpose of my job is to fight cancer by fighting institutional racism. Most of my work involves data about people who lived or were treated in my city, so the most direct benefit of my work will go to my neighbors. It is also fun (data analysis and GIS).

      Plus people in public health are just really, really nice in general. I had mentors in past jobs, but nothing like the appreciation and commitment to helping trainees that I’ve experienced here.

    13. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      Oh yes, my job is extremely fulfilling! I love being a librarian, and can’t imagine doing anything else. I get to spend my days helping people, and I love it. I love talking with my students, and working with them, and helping them.

    14. knitcrazybooknut*

      I really adore my job, even on frustrating days. I work in HRIS, managing data and reports and payroll prep stuff, with a team of two people. It was a mess when I got here, but I’ve been able to make so much process in almost two years, even at a state institution (so much bureaucracy!). I love running audit reports and cleaning up messes and building better audit reports and making things easier for everyone.

      But then, I have a spreadsheet that tracks all of my dvds, and I have all of my books (about 2000) logged on librarything and I used to have an Access 97 database with all of my movies on videotape back when there were such things and and and. You get the idea. Organizing is a lot of fun to me. I’m just doing it with electronic stuff these days.

    15. katamia*

      The only job I found remotely fulfilling was working food service in college. Everything else, even the jobs I’ve enjoyed on some level, has been totally unfulfilling. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I’m not sure I want to know what that says about me. *sigh*

      1. Not So NewReader*

        For a long time that is how I viewed my work history, too. It made me dig deeper, because, dang, I am not a robot, I can’t go through my day by route and derive anything out of that. Maybe start looking around. Can you use your job to help others in some manner? Can you use your job to help yourself in some manner? Years ago, when we bought our house I had job where people threw the COOLEST things in the dumpster. I was always pulling something out*, bringing it home and repurposing it. It actually saved us money. I miss that dumpster, the job not so much.

        *Technically speaking things were left beside the dumpster not in it. No, I did not dumpster dive. Since people were disgusted by the waste we would leave cool stuff outside of the dumpster, with the unspoken expectation that someone would take it home and use it.

        1. katamia*

          I don’t have much of a helping personality, sadly, despite my time spent as a teacher and tutor. I’m a low-energy person with some (minor, but they still get in the way) health problems, one of which interferes with my ability to do a career I think I could otherwise be pretty good at. It’s hard not to resent the time I spend working because I still can’t support myself on what I make and almost never have any energy left over to write (which is what I want to do for a living*, and I’m certainly better at writing than I have been at any of my actual jobs). I’ve been trying to work on an attitude shift because I know this perspective isn’t helping me, but most of the time I’m just tired of putting a bunch of effort in and getting basically nothing back.

          *Yes, I know making a living off of writing, especially fiction, is ridiculously hard. But if I’m going to not make enough money to support myself no matter what I do, why not at least not make enough money doing something I enjoy?

        2. katamia*

          Ugh, sorry for ranting a bit, but I actually think that your comment really helped me get to the bottom of some things that have been bothering me recently. Thanks for replying.

    16. Kristine*

      I have had jobs where I felt good about completing a task or project, or learning something new, but never a job where I felt truly fulfilled. I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until I started dating my significant other, who is both fulfilled and successful in his profession. I have some envy of that. :(

      I also think a lot of it is that I’ve had “jobs,” but no real career path to speak of. I’m really trying to rectify that now.

      Reading this blog has given me a lot of hope, since most of the people I know in “real life” seem to hate their jobs!

    17. Panda Bandit*

      My job isn’t fulfilling but I know why. I’m in retail/sales and it’s completely not for me. I need to do something where I’m working with my hands or creating things.

    18. RevengeoftheBirds*

      My job fulfills me but it’s not “fulfilling” in the sense that its changing the world and I’m going to change the world.

      But I enjoy shifting through conflict, having difficult conversations and gI ing advice to people so I feel useful which makes me feel fufilled. :)

    19. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      I love my job – it requires a very specific skill set to succeed that I somehow wound up with after 20 years of various jobs in several industries. I find it fulfilling because every day I get to do things that I’m really good at and enjoy, like customer service, analytics, problem solving, identifying patterns and presentation skills to name a few. I’m also highly empowered by my supervisor, who is the best manager I’ve had the privilege of working for.

      The job I left this one for was the total opposite in every way, and I thank the universe every day that I was able to walk away into a much better present and future. My old co-workers are still there and are completely miserable, just like I was.

    20. Kit*

      I find my work very fulfilling! I’m a meat cutter, so it’s not like I’m changing people’s lives, but I do things most people can’t or wouldn’t do and I’m really good at it. One of the most fulfilling parts for me is that I start my day with a bunch of carcasses and end it with plates and trays of beautiful meat, so I can really see what I did with my time. I’m very task-oriented so that feels great.

    21. Honeybee*

      What do you mean by fulfilling? I’m not saving lives or solving the world’s problems, but I find my job extremely personally fulfilling. I do user experience research for a video game company – so I run research studies with games and media to evaluate how our users use/play the games and then make recommendations to the development teams on how to improve the games and fix potential problems. I love video games, tech, and media, and I also love research, so the job is really fulfilling to me personally because I get to exercise the skills I really love to use. I also really enjoy building relationships with people and that’s what we do with our development teams.

    22. QualityControlFreak*

      This is a great question. I’m old, so I’ve had a few jobs, and I think I found parts of all of them fulfilling. Many, many years ago, as a day care teacher, I had daily contact with kids and toddlers. I found that fulfilling, even though there were other aspects of the job that sucked. Later, I worked in military logistics. That was fulfilling in a very different way; fast-paced, complex production and testing schedules, scheduling and tracking worldwide shipments of high-value assets. It was always an adrenaline rush and I loved that. But my gut kept telling me there were some serious ethical issues in play, and it was a relief to leave that arena, even though I still miss it from time to time. Now I work for a nonprofit workforce training organization. I get to help people improve their lives; to work safer, smarter and get the certifications they need to make a good living for themselves and their families. It’s not a perfect job. But it’s the most fulfilling job I’ve had to date, and I love it.

  12. anon mgr*

    Our office has a birthday rotation in which each team member is assigned another team member for whose birthday they are responsible for bringing in treats, pop, paper plates, etc. My direct report “Jane” is refusing to participate; she won’t celebrate her own birthday or bring in treats for another team member’s birthday. She claims she does not celebrate her birthday for religious reasons.

    Also for religious reasons, Jane is refusing to attend baby showers being thrown by the women on the team for our two expecting team members. She took a vacation day the last time a team member had a baby shower (this was several months ago; that team member had her son and is back to work already).

    In both the birthday and baby shower cases, I’m prepared to grant Jane a religious accomodation. What documentation can I legally request from her?

    1. DG*

      Why do you need any documentation at all? Why can’t you just accept she doesn’t want to participate and leave it at that?

      1. hermit crab*

        Right — what if someone just doesn’t want to participate? Is this a truly mandatory activity?

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Agreed. So what if she used a vacation day for a baby shower? I worked from home the last baby shower day – no religious objection, just hate baby showers. And if she’s not celebrating her own birthday she’s out of the rotation so it’s not like you’re leaving someone without a birthday planner. Asking an employee for documentation of their religious beliefs, particularly when they’re not affecting their ability to do their jobs, sounds like a real morale killer. Don’t do it.

      3. The Butcher of Luverne*

        Yeah, the more I read this, the more gobsmacked I am that someone can’t just opt out. What other written/unwritten rules exist in this office culture, I wonder?

        1. Judy*

          I know some cultures don’t believe in baby showers because of superstition about preparing for a baby before the baby arrives.

          1. Jules the First*

            I won’t participate in pre-birth baby showers anymore – I had friends who lost their first shortly after birth and having all that stuff around was super painful for them both. I spoil newborns instead now…

    2. IT_Guy*


      This would be a hard one to fight. Religious issues are so uniquely personal and vague that you would have to say ‘ok’ and move on. But I’m really personally curious/nosy as to what kind of religion would prohibit this kind of activity.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          That’s exactly what I thought. I believe there are other religions that don’t do these kinds of celebrations, but JWs are the main one.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Huh, I’ve never heard that about Islam. One of my good friends is Muslim and always celebrates her birthday (and others).

      1. Jess*

        Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate holidays, including birthdays.

        They DO celebrate wedding anniversaries, because you’ve accomplished something by staying married (versus, an infant hasn’t accomplished anything by being born).

        1. Finman*

          One of my coworkers who is no longer JW celebrated was given a significant milestone birthday party at 30 where they had a pinata (little kid), clown, quinceanera, sweet 16, and beer pong/shots for 21st. This was making up for all the birthdays she “missed” out on.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Do you really need documentation for this? I’ve had co-workers who didn’t celebrate their birthday for religious reasons, and we all just understood and exempted them from celebrations. It may be specific to your workplace, of course.

    4. Kasia*

      Is it really necessary to request documentation? It seems unlikely that going to a baby shower or birthday party affect her job in any way. Those are the types of things that should be voluntary anyways. Maybe rethink the policy in general for these types of parties.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I know Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, but I’ve never heard of being against baby showers for a religious reason.

      That said, is this really a problem? Do you really need documentation? This isn’t strictly a job function, nobody *needs* to celebrate birthdays or babies as part of work. Can’t you just let her do her own thing? Then she’s one less person to buy treats or cake for.

      1. LisaLee*

        I know a couple Jehovah’s witnesses who don’t go to parties at all. I don’t think there’s a rule against parties, but a lot of party activities (drinking, playing cards, dancing) are.

        1. ThatGirl*

          To be fair my main experience is with a former boss I had who was JW, and there were no baby showers to speak of during my time working there. She made a big passive-aggressive deal about her birthday, though.

        2. Honeybee*

          Well, there aren’t any JW rules against drinking, playing cards (as long as you’re not gambling) or dancing. It’s possibly the socialization aspect. Jehovah’s Witnesses are instructed to more or less abstain from forming friendships with people who aren’t in the religion. While different JWs interpret this differently, I have known many who take it to the extreme and avoid any kind of semi-social event at work to avoid forming any friendships. (I grew up a JW, and my parents and a lot of my extended family are JWs.)

    6. JMegan*

      I wouldn’t request any documentation from her at all, to be honest, unless participation in the birthday parties and showers and so on is part of her job description. Usually those things are optional events, considered as fun or as rewards for the people who want them. If she doesn’t want them – and it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t – there’s no reason at all that she should be required to participate.

      Also, I would go one further and say that as her manager, you have an obligation not just to allow her to exempt herself from non-work-related activities, but to actively *support* her in this. Meaning, absolutely no pressure from you to attend, either directly or indirectly, and also that you don’t allow anyone else to pressure her either. No jokes, no teasing, no “just this once,” no comments behind her back about how she’s not a team player or whatever. She doesn’t want to participate in the birthday party rotation, she doesn’t have to – period.

      1. Amy M HR Lady*

        ^^^^ THIS!!!!
        I would also like to add, even if it wasn’t for religious reasons, no one should be required to participate. I have a personal example – my uncle does not celebrate his own birthday, nor does he participate in others. My grandmother (his mother) died during childbirth (my uncle’s birth) and so he has no desire to ever celebrate. There can be very personal reasons other than religion as to why someone does not want to participate and no one should be forced to OR to have to prove/explain why they don’t wish to be involved.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Honestly, you don’t even need this sort of emotionally fraught, “understandable” reason.

          The reason “I don’t really want to” ought to be completely enough!!

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Preach! I really dislike baby showers. I’m not a motherly person and all of the conversation revolves around babies and eventually people start asking when I’m going to have one… ugh.

            I do like babies, though, and of course I’m always happy for friends and family who are excited to have kids. But the party itself is just such a beatdown for me! I tend to sneak out as soon as I can get away with it and then make sure to bring a meal over after the baby is born.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly. A personal reason for the baby shower thing could be that the employee lost a baby or can’t have one and she’s saying it’s religious so she can just opt out without mentioning it, but it’s nobody’s business but hers.

      2. TootsNYC*

        “Also, I would go one further and say that as her manager, you have an obligation not just to allow her to exempt herself from non-work-related activities, but to actively *support* her in this.”

        Absolutely. Totally agree.

      3. anon mgr*

        These parties are not part of her job description, but they are work-related, as participation in team events is tied to her annual goals of teamwork and developing peer relationships. For example, she attended our annual team baseball game even though she, along with about 1/4th of the team, did not wish to attend. That’s also why I think this is a legit religious objection, as she didn’t claim a religious objection to the baseball game.

        Unfortunately, Jane has made herself the butt of a lot of jokes, teasing, and behind the back comments.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Anon mgr, this is so over the top that I’m starting to think this is a joke. If it’s not, can you please address the questions everyone has asked about why you care about making this stuff requirements?

          (For people reading this in order, there’s more below that’s making me think that.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’m sorry–you need to make this stop:

          Unfortunately, Jane has made herself the butt of a lot of jokes, teasing, and behind the back comments.

          And NOT by criticizing Jane.

          If you want teamwork and peer relationships, they shouldn’t come at her PERSONAL COST for birthdays, nor for attending baby showers. Even without a religious objection.

          Teamwork is about WORK, not parties.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like her manager allowed her to be teased and put down. Nothing exists in a vacuum, everyone in that situation had something to do with creating it.

        4. catsAreCool*

          Why on earth do 1/4 of the team have to attend a baseball game they don’t want to go to? Is your team doing some sort of baseball related work?

        5. Observer*

          These parties are not part of her job description, but they are work-related, as participation in team events is tied to her annual goals of teamwork and developing peer relationships.

          Do you really believe this?! You can work perfectly well with a team and develop perfectly good and workable relationships with your team without being forced to pay for their birthday treats or attend their baby showers.

          Unfortunately, Jane has made herself the butt of a lot of jokes, teasing, and behind the back comments.

          That is something that you need to deal with. Period. And you don’t need documentation to do it. A good starting point would be to drop the ridiculous requirement that people “prove” that they are “team players” capable of developing reasonable working relationships by taking part in a prescribed set of non-work related parties.

          I haven’t read the rest of the thread, yet, but it might be worth pointing out that your behavior may actually be laying you open to action for religious discrimination. She is being poorly treated, and from what you say, it is likely that it’s related to this issue – which is a religious one for her. You ARE aware of the problem, and thus it becomes your responsibility to deal with it.

    7. Dangerfield5*

      Please don’t request documentation from someone to exempt them from celebrating birthdays. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Can’t you just take her out of the rotation? What would you do if someone said they don’t celebrate their birthday because they find the concept ridiculous?

    8. Master Bean Counter*

      Just let her opt out and leave it at that. Especially if she’s a good employees. By asking for proof to let her opt out of things that really should be optional, you risk damaging her morale.

    9. NarrowDoorways*

      I think you’re a bit out of line. If someone wants to opt out, they should be able to.

      Personally, I can’t stand children and have zero interest in baby showers. I might duck in, wave, and get back to work, but what if there’s the expectation of presents and bringing food? I’d rather not go and skip dealing with it altogether.

      And about the birthday thing… Yeah, it’s easier to get along with everyone if we all participate and have fun. But even without religious reasons, if I don’t feel like doing birthday things, I’m not going to. Isn’t it better she skips altogether versus saying, “Oh, I won’t celebrate your birthdays but I expect you to celebrate mine.”

      1. Jennifer*

        I am trying to figure out what the hell I am going to do when the next baby shower happens. I doubt I can fake sick out of attending it. I’m just not into baby things, but you’re required to be as a woman.

    10. Sadsack*

      I don’t know about the legalities, but I can tell you I would hate the birthday responsibilities. Are coworkers forced to cover the costs if all this, or just the organization of it? Also, I fail to see how an employee can be required to participate in these parties to the point that they may need documentation to decline the invitations, especially such as in the case of the baby shower. If the shower is considered mandatory attendance and, one assumes gift buying, are the men in the office also forcibly included? I urge you to consider all of this and possibly relaxing your “policies”.

      1. The Butcher of Luverne*

        Yeah, what about the men on the team? How many of them are “allowed” to not attend?

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah that caught my eye too, that the “women in the office” are throwing the showers. I don’t think anyone should be required or even pressured to attend a baby shower in the office, but if you’re only expecting it from the women you should be prepared for a discrimination lawsuit.

    11. Oryx*

      Asking for documentation seems way over the line. If she wants to opt out, let her opt out. The fact that you’re saying she “refused” to attend a baby shower sends up a red flag because it should be optional to begin with. It’s possible she’s using religious accommodation because she feels like just saying No isn’t being received well (I can’t say this is the case, since I do know that there are religions that don’t celebrate birthdays).

      I can see where she’s coming from, too — if she doesn’t celebrate her birthday, I can see why she’d feel put off by being required to use HER OWN MONEY to celebrate the birthday of a co-worker. Actually, that whole situation of trading off like this is raising my hackles — you shouldn’t be telling your employees how to spend their money. If they volunteer, sure, but assigning them like this would annoy me, too, and I’d probably want to try and get out of it as well.

      1. anon mgr*

        I do think it is a legitimate religious objection and not only an excuse. The money probably factors into it though. Yes, individual employees do have to use their own money for the birthday stuff and with the baby showers there’s also the expectation of gifts and pitching in for cake etc.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And you’re requiring that of people who don’t provide documentation of a religious objection? That is a really, really bad idea. I think you need to step back and rethink the whole thing. This stuff should be 100% optional.

          1. anon mgr*

            I’m not individually requiring it. This forced participation stuff was handed down from above as part of our new emotional intelligence initiative, in which teamwork and building peer relationships are annual goals. Without documentation of Jane’s religious objection, her nonparticipation will negatively impact her year-end review.

            1. afiendishthingy*

              But HOW if men don’t have to go to baby showers. What the hell kind of company is this. Still not convinced this is real.

            2. SusanIvanova*

              Peer relationships and teamwork gets developed by working with your peers, not being forced to associate with them for non-work-related things. Does your HR department know about this?

            3. So Very Anonymous*

              Wait, there’s an “emotional intelligence initiative” but Jane is “making herself” the butt of jokes and comments etc.? What about the “emotional intelligence” of the people getting away with that?

              1. Not So NewReader*

                EI people do not exhibit these behaviors. Please tell your upper management their program is a massive fail.

            4. Soupspoon McGee*

              No! Requiring or even expecting participation in personal events is emotional unintelligence.

              It does not build trust. It does not build camaraderie. It does not help employees communicate well. It does not encourage people interact in ways that respect their different styles and talents.

              If you want to promote teamwork, find WORK-RELATED ways in which people can learn about different jobs, workstyles and talents.

            5. Observer*

              This forced participation stuff was handed down from above as part of our new emotional intelligence initiative, in which teamwork and building peer relationships are annual goals.

              1. This has nothing to do with emotional intelligence. In fact, I agree with the others who say that this is exact opposite of emotional intelligence.

              2. You are her manager, you do the reviews. You should have the ability to give her a review on her ACTUAL team building activities, regardless of her spending money and time on activities that have nothing to do with her work.

              3. If your lawyers are aware of this initiative, they are idiots! An initiative that requires WOMEN to spend personal time and money on non-work related activities?! Like it or not, this is 2016 not 1915. This is almost certainly not legal, and it will certainly not go well if you ever get sued. I can just opposition lawyers doing a happy dance when they see “Jane’s” personnel folder.

        2. Oryx*

          I don’t even know how to respond to this. I mean, really. If my manager required me to use my own money to throw another co-worker a small party and also always contribute to cake and buy a gift for someone else I’d quit. And then, to make only the women do the baby shower thing is just horrible. And what about those women who don’t have or don’t want kids? Too bad for them?

          I’m honestly almost hoping you’re a troll because this is just so, so bad I literally cannot even.

        3. A Teacher*

          This is so over the top its not even funny–and its really tied to her goals? If my boss told me going to a birthday or shower that I HAD to pay for determined if I got a raise or not, well wow.

          1. anon mgr*

            It’s tied to everyone’s goals, not Jane’s specifically. Sorry, I should have been clearer. This teamwork/participation stuff was handed down from above as part of our new emotional intelligence initiative, in which teamwork and building peer relationships are annual goals.

            1. NFP Question*

              So men are expected to go to these events too? Otherwise that would be gender discrimination, at least in my state.

              1. Oryx*

                Nope, anon mgr has said that because baby showers are just for women of course men don’t have to go.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  anon mgr, I think you need to push back on this, if for no other reason than it’s sexist bullshit for them to only require this of the women.

                  I’m seriously–I can’t even. The liability for your company is just huge. A gender discrimination lawsuit will cost far more than this program, especially if you throw religion into the mix. Gah.

            2. Jinx*

              Teamwork and relationships are generally part of my team’s goals, and we don’t have forced birthday parties. :/ I think your workplace really has a troublesome attitude, and I’d really make sure that someone above you knows about the potential gender-discrimination of basing womens’ performance on attending (and paying for) events that aren’t required of men.

              In terms of Jane, I would not ask for religious documentation, but just accept it and let her opt out. And please, please consider pushing back on these policies if you can.

    12. Heavenly Mashpea*

      I know it’s been said, but I just wanted to add….please do not request documentation! Religion is something so intensely personal that it doesn’t need documentation. It just doesn’t. Regarding the question of what you can LEGALLY request from her…what are you expecting to get from her at all, really? A statement from her church? A copy of her holy book? It all just seems very adversarial and heavy-handed for something that is 1) extremely unimportant, and 2) none of your business.

      1. anon mgr*

        I don’t know what kind of documentation to expect. That’s why I was asking here.

        However, I think a letter written by her explaining her objection would suffice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Why do you want documentation at all? Why don’t you just say “of course you don’t need to participate if you don’t want to”? I’m really baffled here.

          1. anon mgr*

            I thought the law (US) requires documentation when granting a religious exemption. Is that not true?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, that’s not correct. No law requires you to get documentation. In fact, you should err on the side of not asking for it unless there’s some specific (and unusual) reason you need to. In most cases, you don’t.

              But more importantly, the question here is why you’re even taking it in the direction of a formal religious accommodation, instead of just being fine with people opting out. You still haven’t explained that.

              1. anon mgr*

                I explained it above but simply put, our new emotional intelligence initiative requires participation in these kinds of team events to foster teamwork and peer relationships. The irony is that it doesn’t actually help anyone _work_ together. But regardless, that’s why she can’t just opt out; if she opts out without documentation, that will affect her year-end appraisal because it will look like she has poor emotional intelligence.

                I can understand where she is coming from, in a way. I’m a nondrinker (as is she) on a team where almost everyone drinks in rather large quantities at every “night out” while she, I, and a few other team members have to keep answering “Why aren’t you drinking?” all night. But I don’t make the rules, they were handed down to me.

                1. april ludgate*

                  How can a company possibly tout this as an emotional intelligence initiative when they’re ignoring how obviously uncomfortable it’s making people feel?

                2. anon mgr*

                  That’s how I’m reading this… I’m not joking or trolling or anything. I even tried to downplay some aspects to make it sound more reasonable. Didn’t work.

                3. JMegan*

                  If that’s the case, I think your responsibility here is to protect your employees from the lunacy coming down from above. Explain to them that you are on their side, and you think the requirements are ridiculous as well, but you’re in a tough position because enforcing them is a requirement of *your* job. Create a super-quick (and impersonal, and non-invasive) form of opt-out documentation for Jane.

                  Tell anyone who has made Jane the butt of jokes over this, to knock it off immediately.

                  Also, point out to whoever is creating these stupid rules that they are discriminatory (if required for one gender but not another), placing an undue financial burden on staff, and pretty much the opposite of anything related to teamwork and peer relationships. If people are attending only because they have been told they have to, that will do more to destroy morale than it will to build it. If you need more ammunition, look through the archives here for comments on “mandatory fun” to see how many people really don’t find it fun.

                  And finally, every last one of you should be polishing up your resumes and getting the hell out of Dodge. Yikes.

                4. TootsNYC*

                  “night out”?

                  Holy Cincinnati!

                  This is only a company-specific lunacy. There’s nothing legal, etc. about any of this.

                  So, your goal here is to bullshit the people above you. The dip-brains that are making up this requirement.

                  Therefore, Jane should make up any kind of piece of paper she wants that will bullshit them enough that they’ll leave her alone.

                  She can make up anything she wants. If she’s got a church, she can get the pastor to write up something, anything. If I were coaching Jane (and I guess I am, through you), I would say: Find some pastor to write a letter that says, “Due to these verses, this philosophy, it is a tenet of our religion that our members to not participate in secular social gatherings. They do not attend or contribute to birthdays, their own or anyone else’s; they do not celebrate or participate in baby showers or drinking nights. Please exempt our member from participating in these activities at her workplace.”
                  Like a doctor’s note, but from a pastor.

                  If she doesn’t have a pastor, I would say she could write such a note herself.

                  It’s not about satisfying any kind of law; it’s about the director level idiots at your company, and “blinding them with science.”

                  The only bad thing is, once you start down that pathway of “provide documentation,” they can start demanding anything they want.

                  Or you can maybe draw up a form on company letterhead that says, “Employe Insert Name Here has officially requested and been granted a waiver for the following company activities for religious reasons: ” and then have a checklist and fill-in-the-blank. And a place for the employee to sign, and you to sign.

                  And while you’re at it, include on that form “drinking at company events” and sign one for you.

                  Then when the jerks at the office bother you guys about drinking, you can say, “Oh, I signed a waiver.”

                5. TootsNYC*

                  maybe add to that form some sort of pledge:

                  “The employee recognizes that these activities are to foster teamwork in the company and vows to understand to create good working relationships with her teammates through her/his personal efforts.”

                  You know. Bullshit.

                6. QualityControlFreak*

                  What Toots said. The form/waiver is perfect, and the addendum suggested shows compliance with company values.

                7. Observer*

                  I made my comment about your company lawyers before I read this comment.

                  If you have not not done this, and it is at all possible, PLEASE point out to someone who can set the ball rolling, that all of this is opening your company to HUGE liability.

                  1. Are non-exempt employees being paid for these outing? Are they getting overtime if they go over 40 hours? Given that these events are expected to affect people’s evaluations and compensation, the company IS required to treat this as work time.

                  2. Discrimination claims – and actual discrimination. This has two pieces.

                  2a. One relates to some of the issues that have already been mentioned. What about people who are being put into a difficult situation because of religious issues around food or alcohol? (I can think of at least four religions where this is liable to be a definite issue.) What happens with an ADA issue that someone doesn’t want the whole world to know about? (To take one example – being a recovering alcoholic is generally considered a covered issue. Forcing someone like that to deal with these out of work events would be disastrous.) I could go on, but you get the point. You are already running into trouble with this. You are allowing people to be treated differently because of behavior that relates to their religious convictions.

                  2b. You are clearly placing gendered expectations on the women in the organization. Has anyone in your organization heard of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? If this goes to the DOL, they will have a field day with this.

                  3. You’ve got heavy drinking at company required events, and the drinking is not just permitted, but almost required. Is the company making sure people get home safely? Your company may think that no one would ever think to go to the DOL or a lawyer about any of these issues, because they want to keep their jobs. But, if one of your staff gets into a car accident after one of these events, then you can be sure that the other party (or their insurance) will have no such qualms AT ALL.

        2. Shell*

          Honestly, if I were your employee, any “letter” I’d submit would contain four words: I don’t want to.

          I mean, really, that’s what it comes down to. The religious part might give her words more weight due to laws, but it really shouldn’t–if I, an atheist, were your employee, would you not allow me to refuse to participate because I don’t have the weight of religion behind my refusal?

        3. Oryx*

          Why do you need her reasons? I’m seriously baffled here. Unless birthday parties and baby showers are part of her every day work for her job (which I’m guessing they aren’t) there is absolutely no reason why she just can’t say “I don’t want to” and that’s not enough justification.

    13. The Butcher of Luverne*

      I don’t see why anyone for any reason couldn’t opt out of either type of celebration.

      (For me, especially baby showers. If you are very friendly or connected to a co-worker, fine. But it isn’t the norm for me to be that close to my coworkers and I don’t think folks should be made to feel obligated to pay for another person’s baby gear.)

    14. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, how in the world is this some job requirement?

      Every single one of these things should be completely voluntary. They have NOTHING to do with your business’s business, I guarantee it.

      I can’t imagine firing someone over this! Can you imagine trying to defend it to anyone?

      I don’t think you even need to claim your religion as a way to get out of participating in any social activity like this.

      The -most- a boss has a right to demand here is, “don’t be snotty toward other people who ARE celebrating these events.”

      OMG, that you need a piece of paper to prove why you should be excused from a baby shower at work!!!

      1. Terra*

        It may be a CYA thing because once an employee brings up religion the company may be open to a future lawsuit for discrimination. That being said having her sign a statement that she’s requested not to be included for religious reasons and that request has been granted seems like it should be enough for that.

        1. Florida*

          I think CYA would apply is she was trying to get out of some aspect of her job. For example, if she worked retail, but needed to be off on Saturday for religious reasons. But CYA documentation so that she can skip the office birthday party?

          1. Sadsack*

            Yeah, I suspect that the employee felt pressured to come up with a reason to not participate because her manager and/or other employees kept insisting.

          2. So Very Anonymous*

            Also concerned about the comment that Jane “has made herself the butt of a lot of jokes, teasing, and behind the back comments” — that sounds like an awful lot of inappropriate harassing, and I could see Jane feeling pressured to come up with a more official-sounding reason for not participating.

            1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

              Also everyone doing that should get marked down on their emotional intelligence quotas and goals for the year.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                BINGO. Exactly what kind of “emotional intelligence” are those people showing??

            2. The Butcher of Luverne*

              Right. I love the passive-aggressive “made herself the butt of…” instead of what’s really happening here: Jane’s coworkers are being D-bags toward her and her manager is not calling them out for it.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                And Jane’s the one who’s going to get dinged on her performance review for not being a team player. OK then…

          3. Terra*

            I was thinking more if someone mentions they’re (for example) Seventh Day Adventist in passing then later sues for discrimination because the company made them work on a Saturday even though they did not explicitly request off and some people may not realize that Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday. So I was thinking a simple document of what has been requested and when might be a good way to CYA in this event because then you can say that they requested accommodation X and received it but never requested for Y so no one knew it was an issue.

            1. Terra*

              Also, a lot of employment laws put the onus for knowing the law and providing the accommodation on the employer even if the employee did not request it. Which in religious exemption cases could lead to a situation where a manager knows (or it’s legally considered that they should have known) that someone requires a religious exemption for something but they either don’t understand the legal requirements or don’t know enough about the religion to put 2 and 2 together. Because of that I can make a case for HR having a policy (stated in the handbook) that all accommodation requests, regardless of reason, need to go through HR and be documented as a CYA measure. I definitely would not recommend requiring the employee to have to state what religion they fall under just like I’m generally not a fan of requiring employees to disclose medical conditions but a general statement of “employee x requested y accommodation on [date]” seems like it wouldn’t be too out of line.

    15. Terra*

      It depends on why you feel you need documentation. If this is a CYA thing to make sure that she can’t claim discrimination later (either because she wasn’t included or because she feels her religion was not respected) I would either write out, or have her write out, a statement that says something like “I have requested the following for religious reasons” and then list things like not attending birthday parties, not having her birthday celebrated, not attending baby showers, having a certain day off for church if she needs that, etc. You can also include any lines like “I have been informed that my work space will not be used for these events and if I choose to take time off while the event is going on it will be unpaid or use accrued vacation/sick time” if that’s a concern. Then have her sign and date and make sure to tell her that any future requests will need to be added to the list (so she couldn’t claim later that you made her work after 7pm or something which is against her religion). Then have her sign and date it and stick it in a file. You probably won’t need it but it should work in a pinch as proof of reasonable accommodation.

      1. anon mgr*

        I did not even think of this angle. I will have her write something like this and we’ll both sign it. It will protect her, too, as it will specify exclusion from these parties and not from other job responsibilities. Jane is by all accounts trustworthy and I’ve never doubted her integrity, so I don’t anticipate problems.

        1. Sadsack*

          Anon mgr, you haven’t commented on any of the above. I strongly urge you to consider all the comments here. You may have other employees who feel like they must participate in the organization and payment for all these activities when they really don’t want to or cannot really afford to. You set the tone for this as manager. Please, think about it.

          1. Nonny*

            This has been handed down to me, not even by my manager but by his manager (the director).

            I certainly don’t consider baby showers, birthday celebrations, and such to be job requirements for my employees (Jane or anyone else). But this was handed down from above as part of our new emotional intelligence initiative, in which teamwork and building peer relationships are annual goals.

            1. TootsNYC*

              emotional intelligence initiative.

              Holy Toledo!

              Maybe you need to skip the whole “religious exemption” thing and simply confidentially let Jane know that you’d be happy to serve as a glowing reference for her as she looks for a job at a place that’s same!

              1. anon mgr*

                Well… Let’s just say that if she approached me and told me she was looking, I’d do just that — keep it confidential and let her know she can rely on a positive reference from me. If I found out she was looking, I wouldn’t take any action against her and I’d keep it 100% confidential as well. I just don’t want to approach her about it and make it look like I want to push her out (I don’t).

            2. Sadsack*

              So you are saying that upper management has made employee organization of and payment for birthday parties by employees out of their own pockets mandatory work requirements? This doesn’t make sense. And excluding all men from these activities on top of it. You need to say do ethung about this, I am seriously even doubting that all this is even true, it is so absurd.

        2. A Teacher*

          But why do you need a letter? Why are you requiring people to opt in for this type of event? I HATE baby showers and would do what I could to not go as well and its not a religious objection. You’re ignoring what you don’t want to answer. This is a stupid policy all around and if you are the one requiring it, seriously, listen to what people are saying. If its above your head, advocate for your employees that it gets changed and as the song goes “Let it go…” the letter isn’t needed.

          1. Anxa*

            If I’m going to get poor marks for emotional intelligence regarding a shower, I wouldn’t think it would be for not attending. I think pregnancy and babies sound dreadful, so I’d just be an awkward sourpuss unless I knew the person well enough to know the were truly excited about it. Isn’t avoiding a situation where you might ruin the vibe more intelligent than going?

        3. TootsNYC*

          “OTHER job responsibilities”??!?!?

          Parties should never be “other” job responsibilities.

          There are parties, and there are job responsibilities. they should not mix.

          And yeah yeah, teamwork–how about teamWORK?

        4. Meg Murry*

          Ok, so assuming this isn’t trolling but rather just a case of a ridiculous company – don’t put the onus of writing anything on her. Have a one on one with her and say something like “Jane, I understand you are opting out of the birthday celebrations and baby showers due to your religious beliefs. Are there any other type of events that you would need to abstain from as part of your beliefs, or any other restrictions I should be aware of? Are there specific holidays you need to attend worship services for, etc?”

          Then after this conversation, YOU write it up in an email that says “Per our conversation today, Jane is a member of [X religious faith] and as such will not be participating in the following events, and will not be penalized in any way for her lack of participation.
          -Birthday parties
          -Baby showers
          -other things she says like wedding showers, events that take place after sundown on Saturday, etc”

          1. anon mgr*

            Yes, I think it will be better this way than having her write it up. I’ll do this with her and with my other employees as well. I will ask them if there’s anything they want to opt out of for any reason, not just religious. That’s a start…

    16. april ludgate*

      I noticed that you said that the women on your team are the ones throwing the shower, does this mean that men are exempt from participating? If that’s the case, Jane shouldn’t be forced into attending just because of her gender.

      1. anon mgr*

        Baby showers are a female activity, though, so of course the men are allowed not to participate.

        1. Sadsack*

          Sorry, but you are way off base here. It’s a workplace and you are forcing participation based on gender.

          1. JMegan*

            …forcing participation in an *optional activity* based on gender.

            I’m sure that’s not what anon mgr intends, but that’s certainly what it looks like from the outside. And I have to wonder how many other people there are on the team who don’t want to participate either, but who haven’t spoken up because they don’t want to get in trouble with the boss?

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Agreed. So the women get rated on this, it goes on their review and presumably has bearing on the pay increases.
            Tell you managers they are sitting ducks for a lawsuit. Women are being forced to attend showers and men do not have to attend.

            Just for the record, I do not want a b-day party or shower where people are FORCED to attend. That would be so embarrassing to me.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Or are the men going to be rated badly for not joining in on the group outing to the strip club or driving range?

              Seriously, this is a screwed up initiative. Anon mgr, if you are her boss, YOU write the reviews – so why would YOU rate her badly on activities you told her she doesn’t have to participate in.

              Skip all the management and go straight to HR and tell them this is a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen, either on religious or gender basis. Not to mention the total unfairness of the fact that you are telling people they have to buy party supplies out of their own pockets or it will be counted negatively on their reviews.

        2. april ludgate*

          That is so problematic. So this woman is being forced to provide documentation when no men are expected to participate to begin with? Just because she’s female? That’s really ridiculous.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, no, that is very much not the case anymore, and it definitely should not be something you enforce at work.

          More broadly, what is your interest in asking for documentation about this? Why not just tell her it’s fine not to participate? I’m really stumped by how you’re approaching this — can you say more about your reasoning?

          1. Sunflower*

            I think it’s the company’s decision, not anon mgr’s. It sounds like anon mgr is just trying to do what the company is asking of her, which sounds borderline illegal (religious discrimination, sexism).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That became clear in later comments after this one, but it’s troubling to me that anon mgr is talking about all this like it’s fine and reasonable to do to people, whether it’s coming from above or not.

        4. You Don't Know Me*

          So, you are requiring documentation to be excused for what should be a “fun” opt in activity but say the men are fine skipping because they are men? Seems to me you are opening yourself and your company up to huge discrimination issues on both religious and sex bases.

          And did your employee take a day off just to avoid the shower? I can’t believe you would allow so much pressure to be applied someone would feel like they had to take a vacation day to avoid it.

            1. BRR*

              I think so as well but they did use “Jane” for the coworker which is pretty standard here.

        5. Amy M HR Lady*

          That sentence sent huge red flags up for me. If any of my managers/supervisors uttered that statement I would have them complete some HR training courses immediately. If your company doesn’t do it already, I strongly suggest you recommend to your HR department that they conduct annual HR training for managers. I am not doubting your managerial skills in any way, but even good managers can use some HR refresher courses.

          1. anon mgr*

            Yeah, I actually agree with you. A lot of us are really unclear on the law, never mind what is required of us as managers above and beyond the law (the law is the minimum).

            1. TootsNYC*

              Other than the risks associated with a sexual discrimination suit (like, if you’re going to penalize people for skipping a baby shower, you need to penalize without regard to gender), there is no law here.

              Just basic stupidity.

            2. Observer*

              The problem here is that what your company is requiring is non only not required by law, it is actually against the law.

        6. The Butcher of Luverne*

          Did you seriously just say that men OF COURSE are allowed not to participate?

          I’m just going to come out and say this: you are a bad manager.

        7. anon mgr*

          After seeing all of your comments here, I realize I cannot use “tradition” as an excuse to discriminate in the workplace. Even in my personal life, most of my friends have held co-ed baby showers, i.e. they invite all of their friends regardless of gender (especially when the friends are couples – I’d feel really weird to invite one and exclude the other).

          At work, treating baby showers as a female-only activity as I’ve been doing is certainly inappropriate and downright unfair, both to men who might want to attend and women who don’t want to attend.

        8. SJ McMahon*

          Holy cats. I know that none of this is your idea or decision. Is there no way to tell the folks in charge that the emotional intelligence initiative is 1) lacking in emotional intelligence and 2) problematic given that one gender is excluded from one of the activities?

          Seen from another point of view, it’s problematic given that only one gender is required to participate in this activity. Either way, it’s a problem.

        9. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          If I worked for your company, I’d be consulting with an employment attorney over this.

    17. AnotherHRPro*

      No documentation is needed. And this really isn’t an official accommodation as celebrating birthdays and attending baby showers are not actually part of her job. You are just being a good boss by respecting her preferences. Frankly it doesn’t matter if this is for religious reasons or not. You shouldn’t force someone to socialize and participate in these types of things if they tell you that they don’t want to.

    18. Lily in NYC*

      Seriously, it doesn’t matter if it’s against her religion or not. If she doesn’t want to participate in birthdays or showers, don’t make her and don’t force her to provide a reason. I HATE celebrating work birthdays and it has nothing to do with religion. Just let it go. Why do you even care about this?

    19. Kristen*

      There is no documentation needed, unless these activities are required which is a whole other topic.

    20. BRR*

      Forget religious accommodations, employees shouldn’t be required to participate in any personal celebrations. Now if the employer pays for birthday treats I think it’s a nice gesture. But any of these things should be voluntary and there should be no pressure. I would be really irritated if I had bring in everything for someone’s birthday especially because it sounds like it’s a full on thing with drinks and silverware. I’m not sure who is footing the cost but I do not want to be pressured or forced to spend any money on these things. If I want to get someone a gift for a birthday, shower, or baby I will do it on my own.

    21. Been There, Done That*

      I read down thru the thread and I have to say, if this isn’t a joke or trolling, then whoever came up with this “emotional intelligence initiative” came up with a recipe for office resentment. At my very small firm recently there was a party for someone’s special event, which involved donating for refreshments AND gift and no graceful way to opt out. I’m not not only especially close with the person, they barely speak to me. How can HR sanction requiring employees to provide party goods on their own time and their own dime?

    22. Observer*

      Are you asking people to actually pay for stuff that they bring in?

      Maybe instead of “granting an accommodation” after making someone jump through hoops, you should rethink that practice. As for requiring someone to attend a baby shower, what on earth?!

  13. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi y’all. A housekeeping request/request for input if you have it —

    Off-topic comment threads have really exploded lately. That was predictable with the hair color one and I should have warded that off preemptively, so that’s on me, but there have been others too, like the animal shelter conversation yesterday and the tap water one this morning.

    Given that most comment threads here are already really long (to the point that many former comment-readers have said they no longer read comments because of the sheer quantity), I really do want to keep things on topic. But I’m also not able to be in the comments 24/7 — I work, I sleep, I do other things away from the computer. And when I am on the site, I don’t want to be constantly redirecting people because it feels heavy-handed (and frankly, isn’t fun).

    So this is part request for people to be more aware of the issue and self-police, and part request for any input on how to manage this.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      No input yet, first I wanted to say that I kind of got pulled off course in the tipping thread. It veered off into the merits of tipping in general, and tipping differences in different countries. However, I find those types of digressions to make for really helpful, interesting discussions, so I guess I wanted to ask what you, Alison, and the other commenters thought about these…let’s call them semi-on-topic discussions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I struggle with this a lot because I agree with that. I think the problem is when it starts taking over the thread/becoming a main focus of its own.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I thought about that on the tipping thread but also thought that tipping was a work topic in a way that hair colors often aren’t, so that it seemed like it earned its space more.

          But yeah, it’s hard when the conversation’s so enjoyable. I will do my best!

    2. Bowserkitty*

      I haven’t caught up today, but what about posting a general reminder on the main front page? (Forgive my ignorance if this has already been done!)

    3. ThatGirl*

      I’ll ‘fess up to making one of the off-topic dog-related comments, and I’m sorry for that. I think the community of commenters here is such that people feel comfortable veering into unrelated territory, but obviously we don’t want to get too off course, especially when this post exists.

      Perhaps a bit bolder reminder by the leave-a-comment box might be possible?

    4. ZSD*

      Maybe in addition to self-policing, we can nicely other-police by saying, “Can we please move this discussion to Sunday’s open thread?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Tangentially, if the topic is a work topic we can make a request to Alison that she create a post for us to talk about the particular topic.

    5. Not me*

      Do you have the ability to prevent people from replying to specific comments? On a couple of other sites, sometimes moderators just freeze a thread that’s gotten to be more than they want to deal with.

      It’s not a solution, but it could possibly help if only one or two threads are getting out of control.

    6. Kai*

      Maybe you could have site moderators? That might be more cumbersome, but maybe you could have volunteers or an intern who just checks in periodically and reins comment threads in as needed. Even some of the more frequent commenters here might be inclined to be moderators, I’d bet.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This comes up occasionally, but I think it would be tough. I tend to feel like the site is my baby and no one else can take care of it like I can. I realize this is possibly unsustainable if the site continues to grow, but so far that’s where I am :)

        1. TootsNYC*

          There’s a site I’ve spent time on that has non-originating-blogger moderators, and it’s not as pleasant. Too many personalities, and if one of them is hair-trigger. . .

          also, you have a great way of keeping everyone on topic without being scolding and punitive, so I’d hate to see the “tone” change. Your own tone is a huge reason I’m here.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I totally agree. But maybe Alison could have volunteer taggers? I am sorry I have forgotten who had the clever idea of putting a hyperlink under a questionable comment. But maybe we could use that method more often to alert you, Alison, of potential problem areas?

    7. Mando Diao*

      I understand wanting to maintain a certain feel in the comments, but isn’t it better for you if more people are clicking through and commenting?

        1. Triangle Pose*

          Thank you for this. I used to look forward to the comments on another site but then it was bought by a big media company and all the heart left the comments because they clearly posted content to stir up the commentariat in a way that showed they only cared about clicks and ad revenue, not the overall feel of sensible and constructive comments. Glad I can still count on AAM for this.

        2. Rat Racer*

          I have a confession: which is that I always look for the blue comments that you post, Alison, because if you’re weighing in, it’s an easy indicator that a comment thread has become interesting. It’s like getting an extra AAM post.

    8. Student*

      Have you considered operating a forum? It might be better than a single comment thread for each post. Then, each blog post could generate a couple of separate forum threads, like “OP #2 discussion” or “Where to get that oil-slick hair coloring in OP #X”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s a bit too far outside of my mission — which is really just to give workplace advice, and not so much to provide a discussion forum, although that’s turned into a nice side effect. It’s also a lot of work! And interestingly, the owner of Offbeat Empire has said that creating forums was her worst business decision because it cannibalized her traffic from the places where she wanted it and required constant resources. So no forums!

      2. LBK*

        I don’t get the sense that there’s enough derailments that a forum would stay active. I think the open threads do a good enough job allowing self-generated conversations (ie things that aren’t directly related to a letter) to thrive that it’s not worth having a whole separate section of the site that would basically just be somewhere to stick the occasional off-topic thread (and if people are dying to keep discussing something, they do sometimes reappear in that week’s open thread).

        I saw this on another blog I read where the comments section was so lively that it seemed obvious to create a forum to allow the conversation to continue. Once the forum was created, the activity was so low that it ended up being killed a few months later. They’re really different beasts and I think people engage with them for different reasons – the biggest difference being that blog comments have a built-in discussion driver in the form of whatever article you’re commenting on, whereas forum discussions rely on people to come up with their own topics to discuss. Particularly because Alison updates so frequently, there’s always something new to talk about here.

    9. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


      I went off course on tipping this morning. I kinda knew it toward the end.

    10. Lily in NYC*

      Um, it is not acceptable for you to have a life outside this blog, Alison! No sleeping allowed.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*


        Alison should be solely focused on entertaining us, taking care of us…heck, I can’t imagine WHY she doesn’t want to spend all day, every day with us LOL. ;)

        (To keep this on-topic, I think you will eventually need someone to moderate, but maybe someone who isn’t invested in the forum whatsoever. Otherwise, it would just be too difficult to always remain impartial to all parties.)

    11. acmx*

      For the topics you know will have a lot of comments with potential to go off topic (appearance, animals, politics, etc) could you just make it its own post? Doesn’t solve off topic but it will allow the other 4 questions attention.

    12. AnonAcademic*

      Thank you for noticing this trend and saying something, Alison. I know personally that I often resist the urge to contribute my own anecdata or opinions if it wouldn’t be helpful to the letter writer or AAM community. I did feel like the discussion of quality of tap water by region was derailing the post earlier today. It seems sometimes that people fall into “water cooler chat mode” on here because there is a familiar and friendly community, but that isn’t the point of the letter posts and open thread is supposed to be for that.

      Is it possible to move entire threads on other posts over to the open thread? I know on some forums topics can be merged into others if there are duplicates.

    13. Katie the Fed*

      I’m sorry, I’ve been naughty. I’ve been feeling a little goofy/giddy this week. I think the weather. I’ll behave.

  14. Folklorist*

    Missed the last two weeks…ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST! Join me in doing something you’ve been putting off, then come back and brag about it!

    I’ve got some invoices to pay and an interview to arrange, personally… (grumble). See ya’ll soon!

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My big accomplishment today is that I ordered the Italian buffet for a lunch meeting on Monday. I’ve known about this meeting for quite a while, and just had not done the legwork for it yet. Thank goodness the preferred caterer was available!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, I had the best moment this week! I got to something that had been languishing on my list forever (adding an email to a form)–and found I’d already done it. Months ago, I’d guess.

    3. ASJ*

      I have some files I’ve been putting off entering since Monday. My (slowly clearing) desk thanks you for this post.

    4. themmases*

      Thank you! I needed to find documentation for how a proprietary web service works (or at least a high-level description, I know they won’t actually tell me) and was wading through pages and pages of blog posts intended to market the product rather than give a substantive description of how it’s supposed to work. But I finally got it.

      1. Jean*

        Oh, enjoy! I mean, I hope that this is now or will soon become a happy transition for you. It’s great to move on to a desired opportunity. It can also be great to be pushed into sufficient growth to find the next good environment.

  15. HeyNonnyNonny*

    OK, here’s a silly story for the week:

    I recently joined a new team to work on a very high-profile, high-stress teapot project. Yesterday, my new manager comes by my cube and says, “Hey, did you see the new spout spec changes that we just got from Wakeen? We need to talk about this outside. I’ll go get the rest of the team.”

    Of course, I start stressing out, pulling up Wakeen’s emails, and trying to find out what the problems is that is so horrible that we need to discuss things outside. I finally meet everyone outside, and we just start wandering around…chatting. Finally, I ask my coworker when we’re going to discuss Wakeen’s comments, and he laughs at me and goes, “Never, Boss just wanted an excuse to go outside in the nice weather!”

    I felt very stupid, but I did enjoy the walk!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Awww…. I’m laughing with you here, because I would totally have done the same thing! Sounds like a good team.

    2. danr*

      Well, just wait for the next time a new member joins the team and this comes up… you’ll be the one in the know.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I have gone to my team on a day like yesterday and said, literally, “We’re going to have class on the quad today. Let’s go.”

    4. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I wouldn’t feel stupid. Frankly, I think the boss is a jerk for pulling something like that. That is the equivalent of “can you meet me in my office in 5 minutes” without giving an explanation as to what it is about.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        FWIW, I think everyone just assumed I already knew the code instead of deliberately stressing me out. My last team wasn’t social at all, so I’m not used to people at work hanging out just for fun!

    5. Lillian McGee*

      They did this to me last year… I had just finished up the 2016 budget and my boss scheduled an ad hoc all staff meeting to discuss it. Of course I prepared my little buns off it being my first budget ever… only to walk into a surprise wedding shower. Usually nothing gets past me, but they really outdid themselves!

    6. Beezus*

      I had a boss who used to do this, except she would schedule a team meeting in the last hour of the day, with “Garden Room” as the location. There was no Garden Room – it was the beer garden/patio of the local bar a few blocks away.

      1. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Yep, conference room 7b is code for a local brew pub. Actually, that would make a good name for a brew pub!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I always wanted to start a bar called The Xerox Room.
          “Where did you two lovebirds meeet?”

  16. Mimmy*

    Gahhh my Law & Policy class is driving me a little crazy! We’re finally starting to get into some of the legal concepts – this coming week, we’re learning about the Fourteenth Amendment (so, Equal Protection, Due Process). If I didn’t know any better, I’d think these academic articles were intentionally written to confuse students, lol. Can anyone recommend an easy-to-understand explanation of this? (I know I could look at Wikipedia, but that’s not always reliable).

    When I first signed up for the class, I had hoped it would focus more on the policy side, but we have to read a lot of Supreme Court Opinions and do “case briefs”. I thought I would enjoy doing those, but it’s so hard to summarize a long opinion into a 2-3 page brief!

    To clarify: I’m not in law school, this class is part of a broader graduate certificate program.

    1. Lucky*

      Constitutional law is confusing. If you’re near a law school and can use its library, see if a librarian can guide you to a Con Law study guide. I always had good luck with the Examples and Explanations series.

    2. CM*

      Do lots of Googling! And if your school has a law library, you might ask a librarian there to recommend a non-lawyer introduction. Also, lots of law students have put case briefs online — don’t copy them, of course, but Googling “[case name] brief” or “outline” may get you some good examples to look at. It does take a long time until you get familiar with what these cases look like and the terminology they use — which usually takes about a semester, so that’s not very helpful for you!

    3. Snowglobe*

      I don’t know if this is exactly what you are looking for, but for great website that talks about constitutional issues for lay people, Google “interactive constitution, national constitution center”. Constitutional scholars discuss the various articles and amendments, Including history behind the amendments and current constitutional questions.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        +1. The author, Chemerinsky has a great way of writing that drills down on the nuances while avoiding jargon and legalese. Equal protection and due process are pretty nuanced as far as legal concepts go, I’d highly recommend checking this out of the library for this part of your course. (I wouldn’t buy it as you’re not a law student and it shouldn’t be necessary, just check it out and review the sections on the 14th Amendment)

    4. bridget*

      Some law libraries also have access to bar prep study guides. The constitutional law that is tested on most uniform bar exams includes a lot of multiple-choice stuff, so it’s usually a “simplified” version of constitutional law. In a law school con law class, you’d want to know the deep nitty gritty nuances, but that’s too much/too deep for the bar exam. (If you can get a hold of a copy of Erwin Chemerinsky’s BARBRI lecture on constitutional law, I find it very memorable/useful! You can skip the constitutional issues that won’t apply to you, like full faith and credit and the commerce clause and the like). Similarly, if you know any law students, you might borrow one of their outlines that they use to prepare for their exam (a streamlined, high-level overview of the subject matter they cover in that semester).

      1. Mimmy*

        Drat – I’m not local to the school I’m attending now, and the school which I went to before doesn’t allow alumni access to the law libraries :(

        Thanks for the suggestion though!

    5. attornaut*

      Definitely google the case and “case brief” first–I bet all of them have online briefs, if they are major cases meant to give you an idea of the lay of the land. Really, even if you read through the SCOTUS opinion very closely, you still might miss the main point of the case because you wouldn’t necessarily have the context in which it was decided, the impact later, etc. Check out the Cornell Law Annotated Constitution for a broad discussion on the 14th amendment and some of the major cases that have shaped interpretation of it throughout the years.

  17. DeeBee*

    Alright I have a bunch of things that I need to get off my chest! All of them good!

    Alison, thank you so much for this blog and your advice and your book! I received a great offer from a really awesome and great company that I’d LOVE to work for. Just awaiting the final negotiation on salary, but either way I’m so happy to be leaving my current toxic organisation! Their offer was very solid already, so I’ll accept either way. Benefits are amazing. :)

    It’s kind of ironic. At my current company our CEO was fired (ahem ‘left for new opportunities’) in october and I started looking in December.
    Since the interim CEO got here there’s been constant firings (ahem ‘ decided to leave our organisation’). There’s been 4 last week. And today I went to have a talk with my boss (the CFO) and told him I was out of work and that I didn’t have anything to do. (I wanted him to fire me and pay the lay-off fee) He then said that was okay and basically gave me paid leave for the next three months as long as I continued to answer my phone/email and finish the transfer of my work.

    I’ve been stressed because I was forced to make myself redundant, but now it all turned out so well!!!
    My new jobs starts at May 1st, so from the 35 days left to work, I have at least 21 off and probably more.

    I’m both confused that he wants to keep me (guess my knowledge is too valuable to go to waste) and delighted with this arrangement. And I just need to rant anonymously!!!! XD

    1. DeeBee*

      Obviously I haven’t given notice yet. I’ll wait until the last possible moment. I have 4 weeks notice, but I’m guessing (considering the lack of work) I might negotiate less. :>

      1. DeeBee*

        Appreciate that!! Thank you! I need to keep my mouth shut at work so I’m glad I got to share!!

    2. TootsNYC*

      “I’m both confused that he wants to keep me (guess my knowledge is too valuable to go to waste) and delighted with this arrangement.”

      He may also have just wanted to do something sort of nice for you.

      1. DeeBee*

        That might be it. We always get along very well and he has a daughter my age. He’s trying to get me a job at one of our collaborating companies as well.

        However I know the interim director (HIS boss) won’t just accept such a thing without good reason. For example: he cut all bonuses, they’ve laid off about 15 people so far, some of whom have worked for the company for 15 years and who’d have cost about 250k in euro’s (at least) to fire. They basically cancelled my department/subject and made me transfer everything to a different party. This third party is taking their sweet time to implement everything though, but as soon as that’s done, I’m guessing I’ll be officially fired as well.

        At this point, I’m the only manager in this particular subject with this amount of experience in this particular sector in my particular country. They’ll figure it out eventually but it’d be such a setback for them. I’m kinda gleefully imagining my leaving them (and the sector) forever.

  18. Bowserkitty*

    This comes at a perfect time – I need advice.

    I’ve mentioned before in other open threads that we’ve been having problems with people (one person?) leaving the unisex bathroom in our area in an unsanitary state. Urine is left on the toilet seat frequently and it’s gone from me being fed up to some of the others now. My coworker told me she procured a container of Lysol wipes and has left it in there, but what more can we do?

    Signs are passive aggressive, I now agree, but her boss has recommended we put one up. Additionally, we have considered leaving it locked to everybody aside from those who have a key for it. What do you guys suggest?

    We even think we know who the culprit is now but…that’s something I don’t really want to approach.

    1. DeeBee*

      Why is a sign passive-agressive? There’s apparently someone who needs to be told to not leave urine on the seat.
      Why not just state it matter of factly?

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Well, a lot of people in my last posting were saying it, and the more I thought about it the more I agreed. But now I’m not sure. (@_@) We have to do SOMETHING.

        1. lulu*

          You have no way of knowing who it is short of following people in the bathroom. A sign is the only way to deal with this, since you cannot tell someone one on one.

          1. april ludgate*

            I agree. Signs are passive aggressive when it’s something like asking your roommate to do their dishes instead of just having a face-to-face conversation. When you have no idea who the culprit it, it’s less passive aggressive as long as it’s not super angry or attempting to be funny. Just do a straight forward note asking people to please clean up after themselves.

        2. DeeBee*

          Yeah, I find signs with smileys and indirect and vague language really passive aggressive.

          But honestly, if you’d post something like

          “Just a friendly reminder! Please check/clean your seat after you leave. Unfortunately there’s been an increase in dirty seats, which leads to very unhygienic situations. We all need to share this room, so we’d appreciate your cooperation.”

          I personally wouldn’t mind and probably end up guilt-checking my seat to be sure.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I don’t even think that second part is necessary. Most of the stalls here at my work say something like “Please check seat before you leave”.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I absolutely think signs like this should be really explicit:

              “People have been getting pee on the seat. It that turns out to be you, please use the wipes here to wipe yours off before you leave the stall.”

              1. DeeBee*

                Hah! I like that a lot. But I happen to believe in being very direct with people, which doesn’t always go over well. ;)

              2. Ad Astra*

                I agree. Maybe something like “Please check to make sure you’re leaving a clean seat for the next person, and use the provided wipes to clean up any pee left on the seat.”

                Or… “Did you accidentally pee on the seat? Are you sure? Could you humor us and double-check real quick? If you see pee on the seat, please clean it up with the wipes before you leave the stall.”

              3. Anonymosity*

                Yep, I concur. I don’t think they are PA if you’re really straightforward. I just posted one in the break room that said, “Please put your dishes away after washing or take them home so that others may use the dish drainer. Thanks!” with a picture of SpongeBob mopping the dishes. Because people fill the thing up and then leave their dishes in it FOREVER.

                If it said, “Some people may think they own this kitchen and therefore can leave their dishes all over the place!” that would be passive-aggressive.

              4. Agile Phalanges*

                I’d actually word it to include the possibility that it’s the flush “spitting” onto the seat. Not only to allow people to mentally save face, and even if you KNOW it’s not the case for some reason I don’t want to think about, it might help people to check and clean up after the flush, rather than before, so it’ll be a bit cleaner anyway.

    2. Laura*

      A sign is not a problem in this situation. Additionally, if it doesn’t end up helping, you may have to resort to a mass email to the staff. Hopefully the culprit will get the message soon!

    3. Sadsack*

      I think a locked bathroom is a really bad idea, unless there is another toilet very close by.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        It’s technically an unmarked bathroom. The sign next to it has the office number and “PRIVATE” on the label. We do have a bathroom further down the hall and around a couple of corners but it’s also used by patients. (I work in a large clinic with several administrative offices surrounding said clinic).

        1. Sadsack*

          Knocking isn’t a problem, but I think having a sudden urgent need for a toilet and having to track down a person with the key would be awful.

    4. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      What about a cute little cross stitched sign that says “When you tinkle, if you sprinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat”? No? Not professional enough?

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think these are stupid.

        How about:

        “Did you get pee on the seat? (Please check.) If so, please wipe it off with the wipes we’ve provided. Thanks!”

        1. fposte*

          I like the “please check,” because I think most people don’t realize when it’s happened and assume it’s somebody else.. But I think you have to know your audience–I definitely work with people who would be grossed out by reading “pee on the seat” and would therefore be surer than ever that it was about somebody else.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I agree, something like “please check” is crucial here. It’s hard for me to imagine an otherwise functional adult who would knowingly pee on the seat and leave it; it’s far more likely that they’re oblivious and never thought to look at the seat when they’re done. I suspect this obliviousness is also why so many public toilets go un-flushed.

            1. Anonymosity*

              Our toilets are automatic flush but low-flow and they had to put signs in each stall that say “if additional flushes are needed, please press the button.” But people still walk off and leave stuff in the bowl. I walked into a stall yesterday that was full up with poo and paper. Noooooope.

    5. matcha123*

      I think a sign saying, “Thank you for helping to keep our shared restroom, toilet seat, sink area, etc. clean and presentable. Feel free to use the wipes on the counter if you have a spill. Ladies and gents, please remain seated for the entire performance!,” is friendly and not passive-aggressive.

      Sometimes people need a talking velociraptor to remind them not to leave pee on the seats.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I LOLed at the “please remain seated” part…

        And I am pretty tempted to put a drawing of an actual velociraptor next to this sign now, when it happens.

    6. K*

      I know a woman who is a janitor at a small university. They have an issue with a man who doesn’t just pee on the toilet, but all around the toilet and on the wall behind it. This is a regular occurrence and they’ve figured out who it is and complained to the university management about it. Management was unwilling to do anything. The cleaning staff got super frustrated and decorated the bathroom and put up signs. Nothing changed. She said the man was significantly overweight, but didn’t understand why he didn’t just sit down to pee if he was unable to control himself. They felt confident the man was a jerk, didn’t care and got some weird pleasure out of behaving this way.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t think signs are passive aggressive unless it says something like “Your mother doesn’t work here, clean up after yourself”. But a clearly written unemotional sign is fine.

    8. Rachel*

      We have a woman in my department who insists on placing multiple (think 10+) toilet seat covers into the toilet and then leaving. I’m guessing either she sat on that many and they didn’t flush along with the other items, or she just has a thing about filling a toilet bowl with paper.
      After numerous janitorial requests to clear said toilet – we resorted to signs in each individual stall asking that people refrain from using excess amounts of toilet paper and toilet seat covers, as this causes the toilets to clog and overflow.

      Amazingly enough, the perp stopped. Then someone took one of the signs down from ONE of the stalls… within a couple of days, that toilet became covered in seat covers and continuously clogged. Seriously, I have NO idea who/what/why this would be done by anyone.

      1. No Longer Passing By*

        Just that 1 toilet? Huh…. But she now knows the expectation so why change just because the sign is gone????

    9. LCL*

      Perhaps a slightly different approach. The lighting in most bathroom stalls is very poor. If you could get one more light that illuminates the seat and area around it better it might help.

    10. Jill of All Trades*

      We have sprayer at work. I call her The Skunk for her spraying prowess (it’s far and away the nicest term I have for her).

  19. Maple Tree*

    Hey all. I would like some feedback on whether my boss’s behavior is sexist before I get overwhelmed with frustration I have a male boss — the executive director of non-profit with less than 10 employees. I am a woman and all of my co-workers are women except for one. My boss is new to this job (just over one year) and new to this kind of work. As a staff, everyone has a LOT of concerns about his ability to successfully perform the functions of his role, but for now the Board has told us they are chalking it up to a “rocky” first year. Okay. My problem is this:

    My boss has only extended social invitations to male employees since he joined our organization a year ago.

    For example, the boss took a male employee who has since left the organization for graduate school out to dinner one-on-one shortly after the boss was hired. Everyone thought that the new was going to take other staff members out to dinner, but then he never did. This male employee was not in any way higher up on the hierarchy than anyone else. In fact, he was subordinate to a female employee who was not invited out to a dinner.

    Another example: Our organization hired a very talented woman over the summer for a position. My boss (who is a white male) didn’t take this new employee out to a meal when she was hired. However, when our organization hired a male for a position a month later, the boss took that new male employee out to a meal at a nice restaurant nearby.

    Then last week, my boss asked the only male employee on staff (the aforementioned male in the previous example) to go to a dinner and concert with him. My boss didn’t offer the invitation or even mention it anyone else. My male co-worker told me this morning said he felt really uncomfortable about the invitation, but like he had to say yes and that he was uncomfortable spending time with our boss because his social skills are awkward and the concert they attended was music with a fan base of mostly high school students. Personally, I think that sounds miserable and I would never want to hang out with my in a social context, but professionally, I’m offended. I feel like it is inappropriate for a male boss to only offer invitation to male employees. Otherwise, it’s no different than male employees going golfing together or smoking cigars together without the female employees. It seems sexist to me.

    So my questions are
    1) Is: is this sexist?
    2) If yes, how do I address it? My boss has to report to a board of directors and frankly I am a top performer at this organization. I have some capital to use up if I want to. My boss is a very insecure person in some ways and he has put his foot in his mouth a number of other times. For example, he made a comment about a female employee on maternity leave as “milking her benefits for all their worth” in front of the whole staff (which led to formal complaints and apologies). Despite the fact that he boasts about being very progressive, he has a lot of blind spots and this has been documented. So it’s not like I’m scared to bring it up. I just want to decide if I should. Should I bring it up in our staff meeting? Approach him one-on-one? Write him an email?

    1. DG*

      I wonder if he’s not really sexist but socially awkward and trying to make friends? The concert/dinner thing sounds to me like may the boss thought “Oh, here’s this potential friendship I might try to grow with new co-worker” instead of an “Oh, this is a work perk I’m extending to co-worker.”

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I thought the same thing once you got to “socially awkward”. Sounds like he is trying to make friends and doesn’t understand that he’s going about it the wrong way.

        1. Maple Tree*

          I mean, I get why you all are giving him the benefit of the doubt about wanting to make friends. But I’ll add some more information. My boss is married with two kids, he is in his forties, he is active in the community and seems to have friends (it’s a small college town and I’m aware of his social circle). Both of those male co-workers are in their twenties.
          Besides, even if he wants friends, it’s going to potentially lead to conflicts of interest when he deciding our compensation, right? Isn’t this why isn’t problematic for bosses to try to engage their employees selectively for social activities?

          1. Terra*

            No one’s saying it isn’t problematic (it always can be when someone is friends with someone above or below them in the hierarchy). It’s just that it might not be sexist (or at least intentionally sexist) if he’s doing it purely as an optional social thing and not a work thing.

              1. Terra*

                It sounds like it, but I think the reason why or intent matter in how you handle it. Something that may appear sexist but comes from a place of social awkwardness can probably be brought up nicely to him as a matter of how it looks. Something with a sexist intent is more something I’d say should be brought up with HR/his manager or if dealing with him by a group that includes other men. Otherwise it’s more likely to be ignored as just more “girls whining”.

                1. Maple Tree*

                  I hear you, Terra. Unfortunately, because we are an organization with fewer than 10 employees, there is no HR and he only reports to a Board of Directors that, frankly, has a lot of older, white men on it and doesn’t seem like they’d listen. So reporting him to HR or his manager isn’t really possible in this case.

                2. Observer*

                  This might be something to bring to the board, but not because of sexism. Yes, there is a sex based impact, which is a problem – and the Board might be even get that if it’s framed in that way. But, there is something here that I think the Board may need to be worried about, besides that. From what you say, I take it that you are not in your 20s and I’d guess neither are the other women you mentioned. Am I the only one who thinks there is something off with the fact that he’s inviting young (and apparently inexperienced) young employees out? I also think it’s worth noting that the employee felt uncomfortable, but like he had to say yes.

          2. K*

            Interesting. The way you described it sounds more like a date. I was going to question if your boss was romantically interested in these men, but you say he’s married with kids…

            1. Doriana Gray*

              He could still be romantically interested – a wife and kids has nothing to do with anything. (Not saying he is, just pointing out that fallacy.)

      2. DeeBee*

        Or maybe he’s worried about taking out the women because it might come across as ‘trying to hit on them’ (or something similar) or as somewhat inappropriate and he’s taking extra care to not make any wrong impressions.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Team dinners! Or at the very least, take two or three employees at a time. Then it looks like a teambuilding thing (the real kind, not the wacky birthday one up higher!) and not favoritism/sexism. And if the team has a “morale fund”, the manager can expense it!

      3. Barbara in Swampeast*

        I agree. You mention three times he has taken different men out to dinner but nothing about him giving them preferential treatment afterwards.

        He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If he asks a woman out to dinner, then there will be gossip the other way.

        1. Maple Tree*

          Hey DeeBee and Barabara in Swampeast, I see what you’re saying for sure. But if that’s the case, then I think he ought to not take anyone out to dinner. Or switch an activity and a location that feels more appropriate and then also make it clear he’ll give that one-on-one time to all new hires, or all employees. Perhaps if we were a larger organization, it wouldn’t feel offensive. But when there are only about 6 of us, it really stands out.

          1. DeeBee*

            I definitely agree with you that it seems like preferential treatment and it shouldn’t be happening like that. The only way out, though, is by discussing it with him about how it might be perceived. Can’t one of the guys bring it up? It might come off as less awkward if they mentioned it?

            1. Maple Tree*

              That’s worth considering, DeeBee! There is only one male employee currently (the other one left for graduate school and this current male employee replaced him). But I know he is concerned about many of the same issues and I could ask him if he would feel comfortable raising this one.

      4. LF*

        Being socially awkward doesn’t preclude having a sexist blind spot. I was on a board of an organization that had a sexist ED. If the board is reasonable, you should bring this pattern to their attention.

        1. Maple Tree*

          Hi LF. I’ve thought about this carefully because there are other situations where I have considered going to the Board of Directors. Unfortunately, I think our Board is dysfunctional and I don’t feel confident that I can approach them. Co-workers have been told in the past year actually that they cannot approach the Board for any complaints that don’t rise to the “whistleblower” level of problems. If it’s anything less than that, we are supposed to take it our director supervisor, which is my boss.

          1. Observer*

            This actually might be something at that level. I don’t think we have enough information to really judge from here, but *if* it turns out that he’s interested in more that just a “work dinner” with these guys, that could really mess the organization up.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      I think if the female and male employees are being treated differently based on gender (not, say, job duties), it is clearly sexist. I think you should definitely bring it up, but how you do so depends upon your relationship to your boss. I’d be inclined to do it in a one-on-one.

      You can’t be the only one who noticed this.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      1. Yes. He might not be malicious, but by excluding all the women, he’s giving the men more face time, more access to him, and a leg up.

      2. I’d approach it like he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. In person, if you have that kind of relationship, casually say something like “Hey, Boss, have you noticed that you only ever invite the men on the team out to events? It can give the impression to the women on the team that they aren’t as important/are being treated differently due to their gender.” Keep it light and frame it like you’re giving him a helpful heads up about optics!

      1. Maple Tree*

        Thanks, HeyNonnyNoony. I’ll try this. It’s hard because I have spent so much of the past year managing up and assuaging his feelings and part of me feels like I want him to meet a higher professional standard. But I think your approach sounds like a reasonable one!

      2. Ad Astra*

        This is exactly what I would have said, but you got to it first. This doesn’t feel malicious to me, but it’s a recipe for inequality. Since we know that he has some serious blind spots, I would proceed as if this is one of them. Sadly, it’s a very common blind spot for white men in management positions. Focus on how his actions affect you and the rest of the office, and take care not to speculate about his motivations. It’s not about whether he’s sexist in his heart of hearts; it’s about how his behavior puts female employees at a disadvantage.

        1. Maple Tree*

          Perfect! Thanks, Ad Astra. All of this feedback is really helping me a) calm down (I was shaking a little when I posted my initial comment which is why there were so many typos) and b) come up with a better approach to dealing with it. I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to comment!

    4. Master Bean Counter*

      I wold approach the boss one-on-one. He sounds more clueless and awkward than malicious. The weird comment about milking benefits and its fall out has probably made the situation way worse in his head.
      I would approach it like you were cluing the new person in on the office norms.
      “Hey boss, I’ve noticed that you’ve only taken Wakeen and Jim out to eat. This is a perk you really should share with every one. A lot of other people would love to have that one-on-one time with you to get to know you better. How about we go to lunch Tuesday?”
      You may have to gently walk him through pointing out how his behaviors affect the other people in the office.

    5. lulu*

      It’s bad management at the very least. Depending on your relationship, you could casually mention to him one on one why he took only one of the new hires out for lunch. Alerting him to the “appearance” of favoritism / sexism, might be enough to make him change his behavior, if he’s not self aware enough to notice it himself.

      1. Maple Tree*

        Thanks, Lulu. I think the key here is the appearance of favoritism/sexism. I’ll be sure to include that in my feedback to him in some way.

    6. Dynamic Beige*

      In the case of the first dinner, I could see how that might be a way for a new boss to get the low-down on the office history. Taking a woman out to dinner might be construed as shady in the other way. So, I doubt it’s sexism, more that he doesn’t know how to act as a boss/with women. I mean, if he had been extending these invitations to one woman in the office, then this letter would have a whole other set of issues and the question would be if the boss is a “James” or That Guy.

      I think if you want to use up some capital, you might suggest to your new boss that he take the rest of the team out to lunch, either individually or in small groups. If he’s socially awkward, he may not have thought of lunch as A Thing. Also, if he’s shy or nervous around people in general he may just prefer smaller groups or one on one, but it sounds like for the benefit of the person he asks, a small group might be better.

      That welfare comment though, is a whole other ball of wax. Whether he just feels that way about working mothers/new mothers specifically or anyone on welfare in general, only time will tell.

      1. Maple Tree*

        To add some more clarification about the “milking the benefits” comment: when my boss said that in a staff meeting, he was referring to a female employee who taking her promised 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Then, she was let go right after her maternity leave despite 6 years of strong performance. It was a confusing situation to observe from the outside and the more the staff processes it, the more we feel like she was treated unfairly. So, there might be truth to a feeling that his possible sexism leads him to treat male employees and female employees differently.

        Also, he has been at this job for 13 months, so I’m not sure he really counts as “new” anymore. I wish I could use that as an excuse to clue him in on “office norms” as some commenters have suggested but I think this might just BE the normal here now.

        1. misspiggy*

          He criticised someone for taking unpaid leave, and then got rid of her? That would straight up lead to a legal challenge in the UK. At the very least it’s appalling for morale. You could perhaps say to him – or his superiors – that female morale is low on the team because of all these things, and some concrete actions are needed to reassure the women on the team that they’re valued equally.

          1. Maple Tree*

            Yes, it was a serious blow to morale. Our top performing employee was very upset and told my boss afterward that she would not stay here when it came time to start a family but would seek out other employment. It has been discussed several times with him with the staff as a whole letting him know that it negatively affected how we perceive his leadership.
            He did recently agree to overhaul our parental leave policy and that is helping morale.

            1. No Longer Passing By*

              Bit the pilucy itself wasn’t the problem if he thinks using unpaid time is “milking benefits.” It’ll only get worse once he’s considering someone who actually got paid leave. He’s a jerk.

          2. Observer*

            Well, in the US it would, too, if the place were big enough. But these protections only kick in at 15 employees.

        2. SJ McMahon*

          Reading this shifted my opinion about your boss from “maybe socially awkward or unsure of how to manage a team of women” to “he’s both sexist and a b-hole”.

    7. CiciO*

      Well, another motivation could be an overly cautious sense of propriety about the appearances of one-on-one social events with a female staff member. I had a boss like that once, who was afraid someone would accuse him of harassment. But despite the personal distance he kept, he took my work and contributions very seriously and without gender bias. Do you notice gendered patterns in how your new boss is distributing responsibilities and development opportunities? How important would the social connections made through these dinners and events with the boss be in furthering your career? I personally would bring it up only if I felt a negative impact on my opportunities to advance.

      1. Maple Tree*

        Fair point, CiciO.

        I will say that when I got engaged, I was very quiet about it at the office. A co-worker noticed my ring though and made a fuss about it within earshot of my boss. When I went to his office later that month to discuss my compensation (it was about time to do the budget and talk about raises), he closed the door and told me he was worried I was going to leave now that I’m engaged and he started saying that wasn’t sure what kind of work my future husband did. I cut him off and said “I’m really committed to doing my job here well. Let’s keep the focus on my performance.” But it did seem like he was headed in the direction of asking me if I was primary breadwinner, as if that should play a role in what he pays me!
        I might be reading too much into here, but I guess I do see that as an example of a gendered pattern in how my boss is treating a discussion about compensation.
        I don’t see him distributing responsibilities differently, but then again I am in the only role for what I do here. In terms of development opportunities, a disproportionate amount of the professional development budget was used for the one male employee to attend a conference that isn’t related to his role here (but to his previous work before joining our organization). In contrast, my boss did not initially approve a training program for the new female hire, but finally relented after she brought it up with the Board of Directors and they told him to send her to the training. I’m honestly not sure if anything to do with sexism played into that decision at all. It’s unlikely, I guess. But since you asked if I saw any gendered patterns, I thought I would share those.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Have you spoken with any of your female coworkers about this? It does sound that there is an overall pattern developing which seems to go along the lines of he wants full commitment to the organisation and women get married/leave/have babies and cannot be relied on/have competing priorities. He probably isn’t doing it maliciously, but bias is more noticeable to other people than it is to ourselves. Your other female coworkers might have noticed, but just assumed they were the only ones who saw it.

          1. Maple Tree*

            Hey Dynamic Beige,

            Yup, I have shared these experiences with my female co-workers. One of them is our top performing employee and she was very upset after my boss made the “milk the benefits” comment about a co-worker on maternity leave. She did tell my boss in a meeting that she was offended and would seek out other employment when she was ready to start a family. She said he seemed mortified and apologetic. We have made a lot of progress recently on overhauling our parental leave policy. So, in short, my female co-workers are observing some of the same issues and we are communicating about it with each other (and with our male co-worker, too!). It seems like it’s not a hopeless case, but I also feel like I know I might be getting a little too worked up about it.

        2. blackcat*

          To me, this is a pretty big red flag.

          Can you create a document of all of these things? Letting the coworker go (did he really say “milking benefits” in reference to maternity leave? Because that is gross on so many levels), comment to you about getting married, times he takes male employees out, difference in PD funds allocation…

          The document isn’t so much a threatening thing, but a way for you to organize thoughts if you do approach him about the appearance of treating female employees differently. You can provide concrete examples.

          Also, if this becomes a “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” issue, you can hand the document to a board member on your way out the door.

          1. Maple Tree*

            Hey blackcat, done and done. Don’t worry! My goal is to stick it out one more year and then leave. I’ll weigh sharing my thoughts in an exit interview against wanting a great reference when the time comes. It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about.

        3. Mreasy*

          Um, record scratch noise at he engagement conversation. This guy is a sexist jerk. Period. He needs to be told.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wait, no. If he has an overly cautious sense of propriety about the appearance of one-on-one social events with women, then he needs to not do it with the men either, because it’s having an unfair impact (and creating the appearance of sexism). He doesn’t get to treat women differently like this because he’s worried about propriety.

        But really, this guy sounds like he might suck on a number of levels.

        1. Maple Tree*

          I just kind of slumped in my chair and exhaled fully for the first time in an hour. Thanks for saying that. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little too fixed on “the principle of the thing!” about this, but it helps to have a calm outsider be supportive.

          1. CiciO*

            Hi, Maple Tree, so I’ve been distracted this past couple of hours, re-examining how off sync I was in my response to what most of the commenters here had to say. Most importantly, though, I’m glad that you got the support that you were looking for to let you breathe again–having that validation is so strengthening as you move forward in what you choose to do.

        2. CiciO*

          Okay, fair enough. And the additional examples Maple Tree has given definitely takes away the benefit of the doubt I was willing to give.

    8. twenty points for the copier*

      Sexism and maliciousness are not one and the same. He is VERY clearly treating the men and the women in the office differently. There could be a lot of reasons why he is doing so and it seems more likely than not that his perception of what he is doing is more out of managing awkwardness or being clueless. But the behavior itself is exclusionary and inappropriate for someone in a position of authority.

      It sounds like issues of sexism (more from “foot in mouth” cluelessness than bad intent) have been brought up before. I think it is worth raising the issue that he is creating an environment which advantages the men in the office (or creates the perception that he is friendlier with the men in the office than the women which would be fine if he were a peer but is not fine in a manager). Given the overall perception that I am getting of him here, it is probably going to be most productive to approach it giving him the benefit of the doubt and talking about the image and implications of his behavior and how he can better manage that, though.

      Sometimes giving awkward people guidance on handling interpersonal issues is a kindness rather than a punishment. If he continues his sexist behavior after being kindly and directly informed of the issues here, then it becomes more malicious.

      1. Maple Tree*

        twenty points for the copier, I think you totally nailed it. I’ll focus on the issue that he is potentially creating an environment or perception that he is friendlier with male subordinates than female subordinates. I agree that the heart of the problem is that he is our manager, not a peer.

        I confess that I am frustrated with having to do my boss “a kindness” like this when he is 15 years older than me and makes twice as much as I do, but I guess that is the best strategy here.

    9. Sunflower*

      Yes, there’s something bizarre going on here. He’s acting unprofessional towards everyone, putting male employees in a situation where they feel they have to accept an invitation to something that sounds more recreational than work-related, and making female employees feel left out.

      Concerns about socializing one on one outside of work are normal. The remedy is to invite another employee along. And there’s an added benefit. It’s good for team building.

    10. Sunflower*

      I have to add, sometimes I wish companies really had an HR Bartender. A real bar you could go to at the end of the day where an HR person would pour you a drink and listen to you complain about your co-workers. It would never, ever work in practice. But it’s fun to think about.

    11. Maple Tree*

      UPDATE ON MY QUESTION FROM LAST WEEK: I talked with my other female co-workers and they had MORE examples of ways that my male boss was (intentionally or not) favoring male employees over female employees. So, after he returned from an event this afternoon, we had a meeting with him. I initiated it and led it, but my co-workers each said quite a lot during it and they really helped with shaping the conversation and holding my boss accountable. I was trembling with anxiety but I got through it. I used some of the language that commenters had suggested — about emphasizing that I was sure it wasn’t intentional and he surely didn’t want to give the impression of favoritism/sexism. He said he had not realized how he was excluding female employees in favor of our male co-worker, he apologized in response to the examples we gave him, and he committed to disrupting that pattern going forward. Afterward, both of my co-workers told me what a good job I did in the meeting. It felt awesome. Thanks, everybody (and Alison!) for the help last week. It made me and my co-workers see more clearly how this environment was discouraging us. Everyone’s feedback sincerely helped me to take action and to not feel crazy. I feel much better, and having my co-workers present made me feel confident that my words were not going to be misinterpreted or misrepresented later.

  20. T3k*

    So I found a very good way to fuel my dislike for my current job into my current job search by making up a drinking game, but rather than taking a shot for this certain phrase my boss says, I apply for a job instead. So far the count is at 2 for this week (a rarity, she usually says the phrase at least 4 times a week).

    In other news, I have a coworker I don’t know what his deal is. He’s a much older guy (like, grandfather age to me) but some reason he every now and then likes to pop his head into my office out of the blue and just make a random comment, usually about the weather (I’m very cold natured and we finally hit some nice warm days) or trying to offer candy, brownies, etc. I don’t see how he interacts with others much as he works in a separate area, though one time I did see a coworker throw him a candy bar. I just, ugh. I wish he’d stop trying to making small talk and expect me to say something. Discuss alternative universes, black holes, sci-fi or something, but not the weather.

    1. Sadsack*

      Sorry, but I don’t really understand what you issue is with the coworker. Unless he is saying completely off the wall stuff. Why is popping in to just say hi so bad? Especially if he brings cookies! How about next time he comes by, you steer the conversation to whatever you find interesting and see how that goes?

      1. T3k*

        You could say I’m flirt blind in that I can’t tell if someone is trying to flirt with me or is just being nice so it’s making me uncomfortable not knowing his intentions. Also, I have my door closed all the time to keep heat in the room, so he has to actually go out of his way to pop his head in to just make a random comment like “warm enough in here for you?” or “oh, you got a space heater!” (literally, that’s all he said). Not to mention I don’t like being disturbed and I never talk to any coworkers unless it’s about a job which means I almost never go talk to him because what I do doesn’t have any connection to his work nor do I care to want to actually talk to him (not being mean about it, I just don’t like getting to know people and it can take me years to warm up to people).

        1. Dawn*

          It sounds like he’s probably a jovial guy who has noticed that you’re standoffish and closed off and has decided he’s going to make a point to brighten your day by speaking to you. Some people are just like that (I’m like that). If he was lingering in your doorway or chatting you up inappropriately then I’d say it could be flirting, but really it just seems like he’s trying to be nice to a co-worker who’s a bit of a reculse.

          1. T3k*

            Ah, that makes more sense now. Not that it helps when they feel the need to try and talk to me (sort of like how if one is reading a book and yet some feel the need to interrupt them) but makes more sense now in my head and I can react a bit better.

    2. Lizabeth*

      LOVE the idea of applying for jobs based on a phrase rather than doing a shot. Now I have to figure out what phrase to use from the resident office squawker’s vocabulary, there is so many that are used.

  21. Maple Tree*

    Darn. There are some typos in there. Sorry about that, everyone! Hopefully the comment is still readable.

  22. Unremarkable Carol*

    Hello all!

    Please offer suggestions. I am a manager and often meet colleagues for the second or third time and they do not remember me. I know I am not super charismatic and that several others I work with are, and tend to be the “stars” of our meetings. I am not looking to change my personality, but how do I politely and pleasantly say hello when we’ve met before when I remember them, but it is not mutual?

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I always recommend to my students to ask people about themselves. People always remember those who found them so fascinating! (Obviously, questions within reason. Not like an interrogation.) Just say, “Hello. It’s nice to see you!” You don’t have to mention you met before.

      Good luck! I bet you are more memorable than you think you are!

    2. EA*

      I have the same issue! I never want to be like “we have met before”. Usually I pretend we have not met the first time, and the second time be like “Nice to see you again, we met at X”, and then quickly change the subject. Idk if that is the correct course of action, but it always irritates me that people don’t remember me.

      Also, try not to take it personally. As I got older, I realized that I have a pretty good memory, and am very observant. Others are not. It might be more this than a lack of charisma.

      1. Sadsack*

        I think you are handling it well, but why not do that the first time you see the person after meeting? There’s nothing weird about that.

      2. BSharp*

        I am fairly good at remembering names* but have a hard time recognizing faces. I’m not actually face-blind

        *the exception being when I’m not entirely mentally present: I’m caught up in anxiety, or I’m exhausted, or something like that

        1. BSharp*

          (oh hey finishing sentences is good) I’m not actually face-blind, but I struggle with telling people apart. I have absolutely gone up and introduced myself to family friends, work contacts, and my old kindergarten teacher. In high school I sat down with photos of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, etc. and made myself memorize them. There’s two guys I see weekly who look vaguely similar and unless they’re standing next to each other (“Dan has Dark hair”) I cannot tell them apart.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      I’ve been on both sides of this (frequently), and it’s kind of awkward on both sides, but don’t take it personally! I don’t think it’s happening because you’re uncharismatic, it’s just that people’s memories and attending skills vary widely (across people and in the same individual in different situations).

    4. CM*

      I’d re-introduce yourself and remind them where you met. “Nice to see you again, Wakeen. I’m Carol, manager of Team X — we met at the project meeting last month.”

    5. Terra*

      If it’s common enough you could try heading it off by immediately saying something like “Hi, you’re [name], right? I think we met at [meeting]. I’m Unremarkable Carol.” It shouldn’t come across too weird to people who do remember you (unless you do it over and over but the first one or two times shouldn’t be weird). The other option is to be sort of self-deprecating to make them feel less awkward, so you could say something like “I know, I just have one of those faces that’s hard to place” or “Don’t worry, I’m lucky I have a head for names or I’d never remember anyone!” as long as you do it cheerfully with a smile it should not only go over fine but will probably make people like you more.

    6. fposte*

      I think that’s pretty common–it’s certainly not just you! I rotate between the three options of “We met at X–nice to see you again!; “I think we’ve met, actually, maybe at the conference?”; and “Hi, nice to meet you!” and never mind the previous one.

    7. TCO*

      I usually say something like, “Hi, I’m TCO. I think we’ve met before; good to see you.” I tend to include phrases like “I think” to help the other person save face–it suggests that I, too, may have forgotten whether I’ve met them before, and helps emphasize that our connection isn’t yet a strong one.

    8. Leena Wants Cake*

      Great advise for avoiding awkwardness with people who don’t remember you, but does anyone have any advice for preventing/minimizing these situations in the first place?

      I too have a very forgettable face (I call it “Clark Kent Syndrome”–I take off my glasses (or change my shirt color, or wear my hair differently) and somehow no one recognizes me anymore). I’ve been attempting to maintain consistency in my appearance when interacting with specific groups (e.g. always wear glasses rather than contacts when interacting with folks from organization X, wear hair up when there is a meeting in Y location)…but I don’t have any proof that this improves recognition. I wonder if it would be helpful to consistently wear something memorable–colorful scarf, headband, very distinctive glasses–so that people remember having seen me before. Any thoughts? What do you notice about people when you meet them for the first time?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I tried all kinds of things to remember people. I remember conversations- that is what I do best, facial features/clothes/cars not so much. I will remember “OH, I met you at X meeting 5 years ago, we were talking about Y problem” much quicker than anything else.
        I notice if people are excited or happy about something and I notice if a person seems to have extended knowledge of any topic.

        I have reached a point now, where I am very grateful if someone just reminds me of their name and how I know them. Last year a man walked up to me. “I remember you.” he said. And I thought “oh crap,I don’t.” He continued on to say that he remembered me and my husband went to a certain coffee shop together THIRTY YEARS ago! I want this dude’s memory power and his ability to forecast what someone will look like in 30 years so I can pick them out again.

  23. Tiffany*

    I got a new job!

    I wasn’t even really looking for one yet, but was needing to as my current one is seasonal and ends 4/22. Out of the blue, I get a message from a former board member of the organization I currently work at and that I also interned with for over a year (and have been involved with on committees before and after that). She’s the ED of another non-profit in my town. I talked with her, interviewed, etc. and 48 hours later had a job offer to be their Volunteer Coordinator, which is exactly what I want to be doing at this early point of my career (I graduated in May).

    I’m still kind of blown away by the whole thing. They didn’t post the job opening, interview anyone else, and I was told that she had been wanting me for a while and just never had a position opening. This is what I’ve been working so hard for and I’m just thrilled I’m finally going to be in a position that I feel I can put a solid few years into (it’s been all part-time/seasonal/temp work since graduation) and really make a difference. So yay!

  24. Doriana Gray*

    Just wanted to mention that, inspired by yesterday’s post about patterned stockings in the workplace, I busted out my own black floral fishnet stockings to wear with my hot pink ’50s style dress (with black floral lace trim at the hemline) today and have been receiving nothing but compliments on my look from colleagues. Thanks, OP #1 from yesterday!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      And buying fishnets is on my To Do!

      I didn’t have your awesome wardrobe to bust out but I did, that day, wear a sparkle cardigan sweater with a sequin shell underneath and large dangle marcasite earrings & necklace.

      I considered having someone follow me around holding a disco ball over my head but that seemed like it might be overkill.

      I am so buying fishnets……..of course, then I need the right skirt to wear them with… kaching.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Now you’ve inspired me to bust out my own sparkly sweater (and reminded me to go get more Liz Taylor-esque costume jewelry), lol.

  25. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

    Does anyone have any experience as a medical scribe?
    My son is planning on becoming a physician and is interested in working as a scribe while he is still an undergrad. I am mostly curious about a snapshot of what the work is like. Four or 8-12 hour shifts? Were you assigned to a specific provider? If you did this work in anticipation of career in medicine, did you find the experience helpful? Did you take a training class on your own or did you sign w/ an agency and take training through them?

    1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      Not sure what you mean by scribe. As in transcriptionist?

    2. College Career Counselor*

      If this is what I think it is, my spouse did it after college for about 9 months before going to grad school. I’m not sure of any training (and this was over 20 years ago), but the job was following docs around (in this case, it was the Emergency Room) and writing down the orders for follow up with nursing/other services. I gather it was considered faster/better to have someone else do the writing while the doc talked, rather than making the physicians (who near-universally seem to have terrible handwriting) write their own orders. Better legibility and workflow, I gather!

      1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

        Yes-this is what a scribe does: documentation in real-time during the encounter. A transcriptionist establishes documentation after the fact based on a verbal dictation or hand written note. Especially with the advent of the electronic medical record, documentation is a real draw away from direct patient care.

        1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

          Ah, OK I didn’t know there were people who did that.

        2. Mimmy*

          Ohh I think my ophthalmologist has this: Whenever he comes in to see me, someone in scrubs joins him and sits at the computer while he’s examining my eyes. I wonder if that’s a scribe.

          1. Pretend Scientist*

            Yep! Ophthalmology administrator here–all of our providers have scribes. They do more than just documenting the exam, though.

              1. Pretend Scientist*

                Our practice employs the scribes directly–we are physician-owned (4 partners, multiple associate physicians and fellows), and each doctor has at least one scribe; high-volume providers have more than one. They are employed directly because they are pretty involved in the day-to-day patient care–working with the surgeon in the OR to ensure that pre-op testing, etc., has been completed, tracking lab results and outsourced tests, reviewing treatment plans and meds with patients, etc., in addition to the traditional scribe duties of documenting the exam.

                1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

                  Thank you for the info…Is there a standard certification requirement for hiring or does the practice prefer to self-train?

    3. SC in SC*

      I don’t have any direct experience with this but the daughter of my wife’s friend is in a similar situation. She was trying to get into Physician’s Assistant school (which apparently is incredibly difficult) and was not initially accepted. She took a position as a medical scribe at a local hospital to gain more direct experience. She works in the emergency room so she isn’t assigned to one person but moves from case to case. The feedback we’ve heard is that she loves the work and has learned more about medicine than any classes she took. I would expect that medical schools would see that as a plus. Another suggestion would be what my daughter did (she’s currently interviewing at medical schools) and get certified as an EMR or EMT and work on ambulance runs. That and volunteer at hospitals and clinics. Service and experience is always a plus.

      1. DebbieDebbieDebbie*

        Thanks for the info! Sounds like she is making great use of her time while she is waiting.

  26. Wendy Darling*

    Has anyone reached a point of zen acceptance about the fact that when you’re interviewing and the person tells you when they’re going to get back to you, they never actually get back to you by that date? And if so, can you share? I had two different people who said they’d get back to me early this week and of course it’s Friday and of course they haven’t gotten back to me. I’m sure it’s not me, it’s them (I am the unemployed person with nothing better to do in this picture), but still!

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Yup. In the past, when I put an application in, I try as hard as possible to put it out of my mind. Don’t even think about the date of review. If it’s after an interview, I ask for when they think they might follow up to have a general idea, but I immediately tell myself “it’s higher ed–add 2 weeks/2 months/up to a year” depending on how long the process has taken so far. In other words, I try to re-engineer my expectations to something WAAY down the line. That way, if a response comes earlier, I’m pleasantly surprised. Also, as Alison and others have said in other threads, it’s helpful to shift your focus to other things (friends, volunteer work, family, hobbies, pets, dream-journaling, exercise, other jobs you’re applying to) to distract yourself from dwelling on the “estimated” date they’ve given you. Good Luck!

    2. notfunny.*

      It’s much easier said than done, but after an interview or conversation, or even submitting an application, I try to move on to the next one, finding more things to apply to or learn about. That way you can work on the things that you can control instead of over analyzing what’s already happened.

    3. ASJ*

      I tried to do it (somewhat (un)successfully) by telling myself that no company ever gets back to me when they say they will. If they say they’ll get back to you by [date], add on + 1 week to that for a more accurate assessment. Maybe even 2 weeks. A week can go by quickly in an office; priorities change, people go on vacation or are sick, emergencies happen, etc…

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’m continually reminding myself that even when I was interviewing and helping hire at my last job, we never got back to people when we said we would. :/ To the point that when they asked what my timeline was I actually said “Well we’re hoping to have made a decision by next week, but it often ends up taking longer than we hope!”

        Stuff would happen like we needed people to meet to do a debrief and make final decisions but one person was sick/had a dentist appointment/had a crazy deadline/otherwise could not be dragged into a meeting, or we’d make a decision but then have to throw down with the contracting agency over specifics before making an offer because suddenly they’d raised the price a ton and if they didn’t come down we’d go with someone else, or HR decided there was some paperwork we ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE before doing anything and btw the only person who can do it is out until next Tuesday. Or 5 of 6 people on the team want to hire the person but the sixth person insists we CANNOT hire anyone without barely-relevant-qualification X and we have to spend a week bulldozing the sixth person into being reasonable. Or whatever.

      2. Jules the First*

        I try to cultivate the attitude that if it is the right job, they will call me back. It takes practice, but really do just put the interview out of your mind right after you finish, because thinking about it changes nothing – either it went well, in which case they will call you when they get their sh*t together (and how long that takes will presumably tell you whether you want to say yes or not when they do ask), or it went badly, in which case it doesn’t really matter how long it takes for them to call.

  27. EA*

    How do you all handle covering for coworkers?

    My bosses are out this week- one at a conference and one on vacation. Them both being out at the same time occurs every few months. Mostly the higher level directors don’t come to our departments area, but they do occasionally. Everyone is leaving early and coming in late because of this. I am the EA for the bosses, but occasionally do work for others in the department, although very rarely. My desk is also by the door and when people come in, they expect me to know what is going on.

    My coworkers have instructed that I tell people they are sick when they leave at 2 PM. Everyone is exempt and no one is putting these hours off on their time cards. (I send timecards to accounts payable). People ask and I just say something like “Susan told me she was sick”. I also only give this information when asked. I figure I am not exactly lying, just stating what she told me. Should I just suck it up and tell my boss about this? I know this is probably the answer. I also know that the previous EA covered for everyone, so it is what my coworkers expect.

    1. Dangerfield5*

      I think you could tell your boss that you’ve noticed a lot of people told you they were leaving the office early because they were sick and haven’t accounted for this on their time cards. Then it’s up to her if she wants to spot how convenient it is that everyone leaves early when she’s not in the office. I’m assuming there’s a procedure for if someone leaves early sick when the boss is there – do they have to tell her? Could you ask what she wants people to do when she’s out of the office?

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What you’re doing sounds reasonable. For all you know, they work a lot at home or their managers know. Probably not, but I’d just keep doing what you’re doing, or if you’re close to one of the bosses, maybe mention it to them as an aside.

    3. DeeBee*

      Well it kinda depends. Who are you giving this information to?
      Outsiders? Sure it’s acceptable.
      Co-workers? Kind of tricky.
      Your boss? Definitely unacceptable.

      It could be that their boss is cool with this behavior and they just mean they’re not available. I am exempt and as long as I get my work done, my boss (used to) couldn’t care less about what I did with my time. And then one week I worked 60 hours and the other I worked 20. I reached my targets and all was well. It was really nobody’s business and I’d be furious if someone thought to get involved with how I plan my time.

      If it upsets you, why not discuss it? You can say it makes you uncomfortable to lie about it.

      1. EA*

        So its generally directors from another department who ask me. Just like, “where is everyone”. These people don’t supervise anyone in my department but come in here occasionally if they need something. My bosses generally do not check in when they are away. My boss is also the same as all my coworkers boss.

        My coworkers are pretty blatant about this. They have been taking this time and not recording it on their timecard for years. It goes something like “X and Y are not here, I am going to go sleep, remember to tell G i am ‘sick’ if she comes around. ” And then going on about how much they like this little perk. I am 99.9% sure my coworkers wouldn’t look at this as a managing their time issue, they know they are doing something they shouldn’t. It is literally like ‘cover for me please” and “why don’t you skip out too”. I don’t think my bosses would be okay with it, working from home requires prior approval. The reason I care is I don’t want another manager to mention to my manager that no one was here on X day, and it to blow back on me for covering for them.

        I just don’t think things will go well around here for me if I tell the bosses. This has been going on for awhile, and I am fairly new (8 months). I don’t want to be a cop when my bosses are not here.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Ah. So what about saying something to them about the lie in the moment they ask you, like “I’m not comfortable doing that”, or if that’s too direct, “Are you sick? I’m sorry, I hope you feel better.”, to indicate you’re taking them at their word, which might make them clarify.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I’m an EA and think your coworkers are shady as hell. At first I didn’t think you should tell your boss but I’ve changed my mind. Ask boss for permission to push back or for him/her to implement a policy that they have to email him/her if they are leaving early when s/he’s not around. Then, when you are approached say “thanks for letting me know, I’ll email boss for you”. And if they tell you not to, remind them of the new policy and tell them that you are not comfortable lying for them. I’m pissed on your behalf; they are putting you in an awkward position.

        3. Packers Fan*

          It sounds like your coworkers who are asking you to cover are only asking you to cover on the off-chance someone comes looking for them. If this wasn’t the case I would suggest that you could just offer to email the boss and the person you’ve been asked to tell.

          I think it is reasonable to ask your boss how you should handle this in the future. Are you normally the one who is noticed if a coworker is going home sick when your boss is in the office? Is there someone else in the office who has this kind of administrative oversight while they are out? Your boss may or may not know that you have coworkers who get “sick” when they are away. If your boss knows and is ok with it, cool, but at least you could get some clarity in your role in this situation.

        4. Cassie*

          This reminds me of when I was a teacher’s aide for a PE teacher in middle school – I had to keep track of how many laps around the track my classmates ran and some of them would ask me to mark an extra lap or two for them. FWIW, these kids were the athletic ones, not the ones who were un-athletic, so they were probably more joking than serious. I never cheated for any of them, even for the guy I had a crush on.

          If I were in the OP’s position, I would tell the coworkers “I’m not going to lie for you.”. If the boss asks where they are, I’d say “they said they were leaving early” and just leave it up to the boss to go check the time cards. I assume the OP is not responsible to verify the time cards (just forward them on to A/P).

          For other people asking who are not the boss, I would simply say “I don’t know, they’re not here”. You don’t really owe them an explanation, do you? Or simply say “they left”. Whether it is an “excused absence” (taking vacation time or sick leave) or “unexcused absence” (ditching), that’s up to the boss to deal with.

  28. GOG11*

    Question about bringing guests to a work event:
    I have been nominated for an employee of the year type of award at work. I work at a university and this ceremony recognizes the accomplishments of students and employees. When I was given an award as a student, my parents were present as guests. Now that I’m an employee, it would be weird to invite them, right? It’s on the weekend/not during work hours and it tends to be pretty family oriented, so I’m not sure how this falls. Also, it’d be nice for my parents to be there, but some of my coworkers will be there and it might be weird to introduce your parents to your colleagues in an official capacity (vs running into them at a nonwork thing and making introductions to be polite).

    TL;DR: I’m up for an employee of the year type thing – is it strange to invite my parents to the awards ceremony?

    1. Laura*

      I wouldn’t. Even though it’s not during work hours, it’s still a work event. I assisted with faculty of the year events when I was in college, and they never invited family or friends. The audience was entirely made up of university faculty, staff, and students.

    2. Amanda*

      I think it’s perfectly fine to bring your parents! I’m sure your co-workers would love to meet your parents, and vice versa.

      You’re allowed to bring a guest so it should be up to you to decide who you want to bring – no one specified who that guest had to be, right?

      1. GOG11*

        No, the guests were not specified. Most students are encouraged to bring their parents and people generally expect parents to be there, but I wasn’t sure how that would apply to staff or faculty. I am starting to think that, even if it would be normal/not awkward, it would make me look even more student-like than I already do (I am and I look very young, I was a student here) and I may want to avoid people drawing that comparison and placing me in the student rather than the professional category. Thank you for responding!

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I think if you already look or come across as young, this would not help. My sister is a professor and has brought our mom to a few faculty-only events (she doesn’t have a SO) and said it was fine, especially since my mom behaved appropriately (ie didn’t call her an embarrassing nickname or something…not that your parents would!). I don’t think she would bring her to an event that had students, though. Like you, she looks (well, is) young so she figured that might hurt her.

          That’s really nice that you want to include your parents, though!

    3. Juli G.*

      I think it’s fine. It’s not a strictly social event, it’s recognition of an accomplishment.

      If Leo brings his mom to the Oscars, that makes total sense. Moms want to see their kids accomplish things. If Leo brings Mom to Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue launch party, that’s a little weird.

    4. dear liza dear liza*

      I’m in academia. On my campus, it would be really weird. We have a similar “employee of the year” celebration and in 20 years, I’ve only seen SO’s as invited guests.

    5. CMT*

      I would totally bring my parents to that kind of thing because they would love it. And they know how to act appropriately in those situations, so I wouldn’t be worried about them embarrassing me.

    6. Temperance*

      I would absolutely not bring your parents to an event like this. A significant other, sure, but bringing parents might make you seem immature.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      It would be weird and would make you seem “young”. Don’t invite them. But congrats to you!

    8. ModernHypatia*

      Ask someone on the awards committee? I was on the staff recognition committee at my previous job, and we really encouraged people to bring whoever was important in their lives. Some staff (well into their 50s or older) brought parents, or siblings, as well as their spouses or kids, depending.

      However, there, it was the actual award winners: we told people in advance they’d won, so they could let family know, arrange work schedules, etc.

    9. Cassie*

      I say bring them. Why not? It might be weird if you brought your parents along to every holiday party, work birthday party, coworker’s baby shower, etc, but a rare occasion like an employee of the year award? You earned it, you get to bask in the glory.

      Side note – I always thought it was weird when students brought their visiting parents with them to class. Yeah, I get that they’re visiting, but still. So bizarre.

      Google and LinkedIn have “bring your parents to work day” – I think the concept of it is heartwarming but I’d feel really awkward about having my coworkers meet my parents. I need my separate universes. My parents did meet my boss recently – he treated us to dinner – and it was a bit awkward but we survived :)

  29. Snack wars*

    I’m a manager in an organization of about 60 people. The managers recently asked their reports for ways to improve our monthly staff meetings. About half the units said, with great passion, that snacks should be provided. Our former Big Boss used to bring treats but staff meetings were like once a year. Now they are more frequent, and current Big Boss is not willing to cover the continual costs. We’re a state agency with very strict rules saying official money cannot be used to feed employees, so we can’t expense it. I suggested we rotate the snack duties so each unit is responsible for bringing food for one meeting (would work out to about 1x/year),and I got an earful about how a few, but very vocal, people say they should not have to spend their own money on feeding colleagues. I suggested those could opt out, but the next issue that arose was: The “I’m not spending my money” people are quick to belly up to the free food bar and partake. And one of those people is in my unit, sigh. Anyone see a solution?

    1. matcha123*

      At my workplace, about $20 is taken automatically from my paycheck each month to cover coffee/tea and other treats that the admin/secretary-like woman purchases. The money also covers the two or three yearly work dinners we have.
      Would it be possible to collect money from people each month to buy the treats? Would the people in your office who may opt-out be honest enough not to take treats without paying?

      Is a vending machine an option? My former workplace operated that way. No treats, but the drinks were all from two vending machines that were set up. Each cup was about 60 cents.

        1. matcha123*

          At my place it’s mandatory and I believe the amount taken out is based on your pay. Supervisors have a larger amount taken. A friend fought to have that removed, but she never drank any of the tea or coffee that was out and also never attended the work dinners, if I remember correctly.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Could you start a “Snack Club”? Make a clear list of those who opt in and pool their money, and gently remind others that they have to pay to partake of the snacks. We have a water and coffee club in our office, and people seem to generally honor the system.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would ask them very pointedly who they think should pay for these snacks they want so badly, since the agency by law can’t pay for the snacks? But then, I have no problem being a jerk when others are doing the same.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, I wonder how long these meetings are the snacks seem necessary. I would just ignore this request or tell the entire group that it can’t be honored unless they can all agree on how it should be funded. Maybe appoint one of the pro-snack people to head the project of creating a process for this. See how that goes over.

      2. TootsNYC*

        yeah, this
        email? “Dear Colleagues; Many of you were quite vocal about having snacks at our working meetings. However, it is not legal to spend department money on them. Suggestions that employees take turns providing snacks met with understandable resistance. Therefore, since snacks are not free, and there is no source of funding, we will not be having snacks.
        “However, feel free to bring your own munchies to the meeting, as we will be suspending the etiquette rule that says “it’s rude to eat in front of others unless you brought enough for everyone.”

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Honestly, if I were in your shoes, I’d tell them you appreciate their desire to have snacks, but there isn’t any state funding available, and no one wants to pay out of pocket, so it’s not going to happen. (And I think it’s kind of crappy for them to expect Big Boss to pay for the treats.)

    5. AndersonDarling*

      As a side note, whenever we do internal surveys on meetings, 80% of the comments are about food. Either there should be food, or there should be better food, or there isn’t enough food…we’ve gotten to the point that we just throw out all comments about food so we can get to the relevant feedback.
      We’ve learned that if there isn’t anything constructive to say, employees will comment about food.

    6. CM*

      I would just bring snacks every once in a while, to maybe 3-4 meetings a year if Big Boss is willing to finance that. But if Big Boss and/or the managers of the units are not willing to pay for this out of pocket, I’d skip the food. Snacks are great, emails nudging you to contribute money for a work meeting are not great.

    7. Terra*

      Say that it’s not possible because of the expenses, if you want to mention certain people not wanting to chip in to make it possible go ahead, but offer to let people know a day or so ahead when the meetings will be (if you don’t already) and that people are welcome to bring their own snacks in provided that they’re not disruptive to the meeting.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I think that asking for snacks was an absolutely stupid reply to that question. I would assume that the managers were looking for replies that were more about the meeting structure. If I were a manager and got that response from people, I would think that they are not very serious about their work if the only thing they come up with to improve meetings is “more snacks”. Honestly, I would just say that snacks at every meeting are not an option and that they should grow up. (sorry, I’m in a mood)

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is totally true. That is a pretty immature response to a work question.

        This is not the church youth group, or Girl Scouts.

    9. Chriama*

      This is the best solution. Maybe make a point to build in breaks if these meetings are really long and don’t schedule them over the time most people take lunch. But other than that, “we want snacks” is not feedback that you need to take this seriously.

    10. E*

      The people willing to bring treats should do so, and if there aren’t enough volunteers for all the meetings then some meetings won’t have treats.

    11. Cassie*

      I would just say “sorry, we don’t have the budget for snacks/food” and leave it with that. You will always have people complaining about not having food, not having enough food, having bad food, etc. People will complain but they’re not *that* invested in the issue to fork over money or take the time/effort to go purchase the food.

      Our faculty have catered lunches for their faculty meetings and some people do/did complain about the food – it’s too greasy, we should order Indian from this place – not that one, pasta again?! etc. Under one dept head, we did take their comments into consideration and order accordingly. Under the new dept head, they’ve had cold lunches like just a salad (which the faculty hate and complained about) but the new dept head doesn’t care. So the faculty still complain amongst themselves, the dept head still orders the cold lunches, and life goes on.

  30. matcha123*

    This is a weird question, but why should a company pay anyone more than the bare minimum needed to survive and pay their bills? Why should someone be paid in the millions?

    I ask because I keep running into this mindset where I am (Japan). $2500 a month is considered a respectable wage for anyone. Regardless of educational level. A know a number of people in IT in the US who would like to work in Japan, but are turned off by the low wages.
    (Case in point: https: // 3.6 million yen is about $33,000)

    My gut tells me that if you want highly skilled people, you should pay them more and give them better benefits to attract them to your place of employment. However, when I’ve asked about the line of thinking in Japan, the response is usually something along the lines of, “If you cook your own food, you’ll save money,” or “Young people don’t need more money.” On the one hand I can see and understand that line of thinking. On the other hand, I’ve thought that higher salaries give employees more energy to focus on their job, rather than their wallets.

    How would you explain why you deserve a higher salary if your achievements don’t mean much of anything to the companies you interview with?

    1. Susan C*

      Because the labour market is a free market like any other. Sure, at some points this has gone slightly out of whack, because of people who essentially pay their own wages or benefit from artificially inflating the wages around them etc, but in general, the same mechanisms are supposed to apply. Your employer doesn’t pay you out of the goodness of their heart – they pay you because you wouldn’t do the work they need for less, and if they think someone else will, at the same or better quality, they’ll replace you, leading possibly to a price-adjustment on your part.

      Now, all that of course falls apart if due to convention or something else, people *will* do the work for less than you consider its worth, in which case you lose your leverage.

      1. TootsNYC*

        U.S. companies will pay what the job is worth to them as well–don’t think they don’t!
        You don’t think American companies don’t say, “You can get buy on $7.50 an hour–just get food stamps!” Or “you don’t need to earn more money–you can cook at home”? Or “you don’t need a cell phone”?
        Where have you been lately? Aren’t you reading the same newsstories I am?

        Now, IT jobs and other mid-level semi-skilled jobs…
        Perhaps in Japan, companies are more able to count on the idea that OTHER companies will have the same outlook, and will not raise their own wages, so there’s a common outlook that keeps the wages lower.
        And maybe for -some- fields, American companies are more likely to say, “Hey, if I pay a little bit more that the other companies in my own, I can be pickier about my workforce,” and so there is a greater likelihood of wage creep.

        This is happening at my company in my field. They cut the hourly wage. And some people are accepting it because we’re such a big employer, they have no choice. Others, of course, are leaving us for the places that will pay more.

        I don’t see that someone is claiming they ought to be worth more to Japanese companies, but they’re saying, “at U.S. companies, I can get more money. It’s not worth my time to take a job that pays less.”
        Essentially, they’re only doing what the company is doing: it’s a fair exchange, and they’re saying, “I won’t work for a lower wage.” They’re entitled to do that, and they suffer all the consequences that come with it (i.e., not working in Japan because they don’t want that income level).

    2. Allison*

      I always thought of my higher wage as having to dealing with higher level issues. Why would I work harder and take more risk at the same wage as someone working at a lower skill and lower risk job? If I can get $2500 for answering phones, why would I work for $2500 writing contracts?

    3. Terra*

      Because Japan is much more socialist than the US so a lot more of their cost of living is covered by the government. In the US we make a lot more but also have a lot more bills so we need to make more money in order to compensate. Granted there’s an argument to be made about how much is too much when it comes to salaries but there are reasons.

      1. Susan C*

        I’d be curious to know if there’s any data on this – because off the cuff I’m not sure there’s a correlation between prevalent compensation structures and social benefits. Overall absolute income level yes, but relative values between roles/fields/degrees?

        I’m mostly basing that on the fact that here in Germany, which is pretty dang socialist (in the American sense of the word at least), and supply and demand are definitely causing some major discrepancies in salaries here.

      2. matcha123*

        I don’t know what the government covers. Using my W2 equivalent from last year as an example, I made $34,000 (actually less due to the exchange rate). My take-home pay was $22,000, with about $12,000 going to pension, residency and national taxes, and health insurance. Doctors visits are not free, I pay 30% of the total out of pocket. I also don’t get housing subsidies, but do get transportation from my home to workplace covered.

        I do think that our expensive universities are one reason for higher wages in some fields. But, we also currently think that programmers and people in other IT fields deserve to be paid more.

    4. Manders*

      I think “surviving and paying your bills” may mean something a bit different in Japan, where it’s more common for young unmarried people to live in their parents’ home or in micro-housing, and many highly skilled foreigners who go there to work have some sort of comped housing. It’s also way less common to hop between companies, so there’s less of a sense that employees will leave for better pay elsewhere.

      I still think people *should* be compensated above the absolute minimum, of course.

      1. matcha123*

        This is true. More people live at home and have support from their parents, meaning that they don’t necessarily need a larger salary.
        In my case, I have a hard time figuring out how to present a sound case for higher pay based on the fact that I don’t have that support network or housing allowance. Many postings here ask for certain nationalities, Visa types and other qualifications that cannot easily be filled by locals.

        I don’t know if “doing all this work to find housing, etc. myself” is reason enough to expect a higher wage.

    5. Development Professional*

      The answer is usually “because this is how my skills and experience are valued in the marketplace,” implying “because someone else would reasonably pay me this much for similar work.” The challenge here is that from what I know about Japanese work culture (which is to say, some but not firsthand knowledge) is that salaries are based much more on your age and seniority than they are on skills or accomplishments. The culture of paying your dues and waiting your turn is so strong, it might be hard to convince anyone that you deserve to jump the queue to a higher salary before you’ve put in that time. This is coupled with the fact that if all the employers in the local marketplace adhere to this thinking, then your usual bargaining chip of being able to command a higher salary elsewhere disappears.

    6. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      You can see it on the most basic level in our company.

      In our region, it is not possible for us to get a qualified candidate for the most basic level job (say, entry level packer in a warehouse) for less than $14 an hour. If you pay less, the candidate pool is unhireable. At $14, there will be some candidates you could try. At $15, the pool gets better and etc., as you go up.

      Now we have jobs that pay a lot more than that, and require more skills and education, but the principle is exactly the same that, pretty much, you get what you pay for in terms of candidates to choose from.

      IDK why it is different in Japan other than knowing there’s an entirely different philosophy in Japan about obligation to employer.

      1. matcha123*

        True, it’s a very different way of thinking that I wouldn’t expect anyone outside of Japan to understand.
        With that said, I wonder how we in the US are able to say “If I’m moving to NYC to take a job at your company, my pay needs to be adjusted for the higher cost of living,” while here there is minimal salary discrepancy between my large city and Tokyo.

        This is something that often comes to mind and drives me crazy!

    7. Not So NewReader*

      How would you explain why you deserve a higher salary if your achievements don’t mean much of anything to the companies you interview with?

      Interview at other companies, not at the non-believers?

      I guess you have to explain to the company how you can help them.

  31. fishy*

    I’ve been running into an issue on some online job applications. Some of them, when asking for the reason you left your previous jobs, just give you three checkboxes: “fired”, “quit”, or “laid off”. You HAVE to check one of the boxes to move on and there’s no place to explain your answer. Which option am I supposed to check if the job in question was a temp job that had a predefined end date all along?

    1. Laura*

      Ugh. What a stupid form design! I would put “quit” since it was predetermined that you would leave on that date. Quitting isn’t inherently bad– it just has a negative stigma for no good reason.

    2. Susan C*

      I’d probably go with ‘laid off’, because it conveys a value neutral ‘not needed anymore’ best? Still a dumb system though, seriously.

    3. Monique*

      I’d reply ‘quit’. It’s the option that makes it sound like you left of your own accord, which you did, on a pre-agreed date. Think of it as your notice period being as long as your employment there :)

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think “laid off” comes closest to what actually happened. And “quit”, while sometimes sounding more desirable, indicates that you didn’t want to stay, which isn’t accurate. The company made the decision not to keep you on based on business reasons, not performance. That sounds like “laid off” to me.

      But whoever programmed those applications needs to retire, since they obviously can’t program worth a damn. (I guess the client could have insisted on those specific options, but in that case I probably would have refused to complete that project.)

    5. T3k*

      I’d have checked “laid off” because it comes off better than quit, as quit sounds like you left because you didn’t like it rather than the truth (you met the end date and finished your temp job).

    6. Megs*

      I would definitely go with laid off instead of quit. Quitting is when you decide on your own to leave a job. Laid off is when your employer decides when you leave a job. The fact that it’s decided ahead of time doesn’t matter. From an unemployment perspective, in my state at least, you can get benefits after a fixed-term employment ends just like being unexpectedly laid off, but you can’t get benefits if you quit (except for very limited situations).

    7. TootsNYC*

      I would put “laid off.”

      That’s the only one that encompasses this: It was the company’s purely business/financial decision to end the relationship.
      It was not your decision to leave, and you were not dismissed because you weren’t doing your job.

    8. Lizketeer*

      I ran into this problem recently and asked here. The general consensus was that laid off was a better term because it implies something out of my control (vs choosing to quit or being fired for an offense)

      All of my past positions were internships with a set end date, so none of those options applied. They did though have an explanation box where I noted ‘internship’

  32. AVP*

    I just laid off a longtime contractor who I’ve worked with for 8 years and liked very much. Worst part of this month by far! I feel terrible but it had to happen and I’m glad I just did it the right way instead of trying to rip the bandaid off slowly and making everyone miserable in the process.

    1. Jules the First*

      Awww. Sympathy hug….
      I thought that the worst week of my professional life was the week we let 15 people go at onec.
      The worst week of my professional life was the second one, three month later, where we had to let 15 more people go. Because this time I knew what to expect.

  33. Just Wondering*

    Update on last week’s issue – my wanting to drop a project with a coworker who’s doing such a poor job that the project is bound to fail.
    Had a telephone call with the boss about it and she was very understanding, since I had brought the issues to her attention before. I didn’t email her the summary of the problems and how I’d tried to resolve them, but I referred to it as my notes during the call. I have her verbal agreement that I can be removed from the project and that the hours will be replaced within a few months. I’ll be underemployed until they find a new project to transfer me to.
    I’m surprised and pleased how painlessly it went down. The only thing I have to do to make it official is to have a meeting with my colleague and a few managers, in which I have to explain why I won’t work with her anymore and what changes she needs to make to get the project back on track. I have my boss’s word that I won’t be forced to continue in the project, no matter what the results of the meeting are. I am not looking forward to the uncomfortable process of laying out all her shortcomings in front of the managers, though. She knows that she and I disagree on how to do things, but she’s convinced her way is equally valid, while I see her way as being the sure path to failure.
    Example: She finalized the budget and production schedule for the upcoming new teapot design… without having physically designed the teapot yet, so she can’t possibly have accurate information. “Yeah, but I’m better at this sort of thing, so I just thought I’d leave the difficult bits for later.”
    I will still see her around the office, so I would like to leave my bridges with her as unburnt as possible, but… I feel it would be unfair not to explain, and yet she will surely feel betrayed having a colleague report her to management and refuse to work with her.
    Gah. Any advice on how to be honest and yet kind?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If I were discussing it with her, I’d position it as refusing to work on *the project*, not refusing to work with her. (No reason for her to know you’re going to try to never work on her projects again.) Example: “I’m not able to follow a budget and production schedule that were developed before the teapot was designed.”

      1. Just Wondering*

        Unfortunately, probably not. Partly because I’ve already made it clear to two people in management that it’s about her, and they’re not the type to mince words at the meeting. The other reason is hard to explain without giving away too much personal information.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Well, it’s about her *and* her inability to get the work done; it’s not just personal. When I told my manager I would never again work with Mr Coffeecup, it was because I’d spent 2 weeks waiting for him to do something that it turned out I, with no starting knowledge of the topic at all, managed to do in one day. And everyone could see that he’d done nothing, so nobody was going to be upset at me on his behalf.

          But in my case it wasn’t really uncomfortable for me to lay it out to my manager; I was more angry and frustrated at wasting so much time.

    2. CiciO*

      Any opportunity to have a one-on-one with her before the meeting with the managers? So that she can 1) have the chance to have her initial emotional response if any, in a more private setting, 2) allow her to prepare her case for how she wants to do things for the meeting with the managers.

      1. Just Wondering*

        I will definitely try to do that. They haven’t scheduled the meeting yet, but I expect it to be midweek next week.
        I feel bad that I think she really won’t expect this. She knows I’m unhappy and have threatened to quit before, but I also have a fairly happy disposition, and I don’t dislike her as a person, so I think she dismissed my complaints as not that serious. Guess I’ve got to send her an email before she gets the meeting invite.

  34. Susan C*

    Finally, after one phone screen, an assessment test and three separate in-person interviews (two of which in the out of country company HQ*) the relevant BU has finally decided they indeed want to hire me, but they still need final approval from higher up. They’d get back to me by Thursday, they said. They did, to tell me the person meant to go to bat for me has the flu and had to hand over the task, leading to delay. It’ll be a wonder if I still have all my finger nails by Monday. *screaming on the inside*

    (* still only a little over 2 hrs away, but still)

  35. D*

    I just started working for a wonderful company. My colleagues are amazing, the work is challenging and I am helping to establish a required department. My only concern is we are all very qualified so upward career movement will take time. I know each person’s preference is different but what is more important to all of you career mobility or a challenging job? I will not be making any career changes based on your answers I’m just curious.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’m more of a technical specialist, so I’m not interested in advancing. I’d rather just stick around, being challenged and doing my job well.

    2. DeeBee*

      For me it’s a challenging job that I find rewarding and can reach personal growth in. (Education, training, new experiences, etc.)

      If I want career mobility there’s plenty of other companies. And that generally pays more as well. ;)

    3. ASJ*

      For me personally, career mobility is more of a concern right now. I know I don’t want to be an admin assistant for the rest of my life, and I also write so I can entertain myself during downtime.

      However, I don’t think your position is such a bad one. Realistically, it will take time for upward movement – but you just started working there, so it will take time anyway. This could be an issue you run into at any company, and even with qualified coworkers you can still shine. Look for opportunities where you can “fill in the gaps” – become the expert on something that no one else is.

    4. katamia*

      Career mobility. I’m not happy with where I am or what I’m doing, and in the long run, new jobs are the only way to get where I want to be.

    5. Doriana Gray*

      Career mobility. With advancement comes more money, and lord knows I need that right now. And the great thing about the industry I’m in is, the higher up you go, the more challenging your work becomes. So really, I’d get both if I stay in my current industry with my current company.

    6. TootsNYC*

      for me it’s employment stability! Which was not one of your choices, I know.

      My industry is narrowing, and the competition for jobs is fierce.

  36. Celia*

    Hi all:

    I’m currently wandering the spectrum of “do I hate my job” and “am I depressed”. And advice for this path apart from get a therapist! (I’m working on it! I’m having trouble find one I can afford)

    Background: I used to like my job. First one out of college, really good coworkers, decent pay, some high stress but nothing I couldn’t mostly handle. Now I’m finishing up year two and trying to figure out what I liked about it in the first place. Also: there’s a good chance my mental health issues are back.

    1. Laura*

      Start looking elsewhere! You’ve established yourself at that job (and well done for staying so long in your first position!). You now have useful skills and connections and if your job isn’t making you happy, start looking for a new one.

      1. Celia*

        This job may also have some cool opportunities and a promotion soon. Also- I have started looking and I have no idea what I like or what. Trying to break that down has been difficult and made me more frustrated.

        Sorry to vent, but I feel odd trying to negotiate a raise and a new job and my feelings at the same time haha

        1. Mreasy*

          I’ve been there, and it’s undoubtedly a combination of the two factors. However, if you aren’t facing something clearly toxic at the job, like an undermining boss, unrealistic workload, fear of layoff, etc, that would be adding a level of negative stress onto everything, my experience with jobs & mental health issues is that it’s likely that you are interpreting the job through an unhappy lens (of depression, anxiety, etc – or whatever cocktail of delights your personal brain has built for you). If you’re in a toxic environment, its key to make extracting yourself a part of your mental health strategy, but in this case it sounds like redoubling the therapist or psych search may be the priority. Don’t know your situation, but I sure know mine, which has involved a lot of fumbling through this stuff over the years.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Self care. When you’re not at work, do things that bring you joy and comfort – exercise, reading, time with friends, cross-stitch, etc.

      I’d say a therapist will also be very helpful, of course, but you should do self-care regardless.

    3. Fawnling*

      Recently I’ve had the same question that you do. All of my co-workers seem to love their job and the culture and I can’t stand it anymore.

      I’ve been asking myself:
      – Do I only hate the job, or are there other things in my life I am unhappy with?
      – Would I be happier in another job? Another field?

    4. Almond Milk Latte*

      I struggle with this too – Is my crappy job feeding my depression? Is my depression making my good job seem awful? I know my brain is lying to me about something, but I’m never 100% sure what it is. Can you make an list of what you hate about your job and then look at it a few days later to see if you still think these are things you can reasonably expect to be different in a new job?

    5. TCO*

      If your workplace has an EAP (employee assistance program), they might be able to refer you to a therapist within your budget and/or pay for a few sessions.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      Sometimes it just means the honeymoon phase of the job is over (you’ve been through two cycles now), and it’s no longer new or you’re not learning much. Can you develop new projects/learn new things to keep your interest up? That said, if you’ve decided that the novelty’s worn off and you don’t really like the work, it’s appropriate to look for something more in line with what you want/need in a job.

    7. ASJ*

      Could you take a long vacation? Like, at least a week but closer to two would be better. You sound burned out and like you need some space.

    8. EmilyG*

      A third option–burnout? Here’s a random link I just found, but it covers the kind of symptom I was thinking of: Do you feel like you’re set up to fail, or overlooked, or not valued?

      The thing about burnout is that it can happen even with good coworkers and pay, if you have sufficiently bad projects or management. If you’re burned out, you might get a lot of relief and new energy from a similar job/same profession job, just someplace else. Also, personally, I think it can bring depression symptoms forward. For me, it’s almost like job burnout makes me act like a depressed person at work and then I end up actually feeling depressed.

      1. Terra*

        Boredom can also cause burnout! Most people associate burnout with high stress fields where it’s more common but apparently underemployed people are also prone to it due to boredom and what goes with it. I’ve been there and it took forever to figure out because my job wasn’t that stressful.

    9. TootsNYC*

      It could well be both. It certainly was for me.

      But getting a new job is going to help either one of them, and it’s the one that’s easiest to afford!

      Good luck.

  37. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    I work for a state agency, so it is nearly (but not completely) impossible to fire someone here. We have a new boss who is obviously trying to get people who don’t fit into her “mold” to quit. I am one of them. Has anyone had to cope with this before? If so, how did you cope with being demoralized (if that is the right word)? I am looking for another job at this time but it is difficult to find a job which matches my skillset, experience, and age so it is taking me a while. Thanks.

    1. Laura*

      This isn’t quite the same situation, but when I was in college, I had a work-study position. My boss didn’t like me and very much tried to push me out on multiple occasions. I had to really watch my a** around the office and stand up for myself when he bullied me. Fortunately I was excellent at my job. I tried to kill him with kindness and ultimately it paid off– he left me alone after he got tired of trying to push me away.

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I wish I could try the “kill with kindness” approach but our new boss is way too savvy for something like that. That is a stunt that she would (and has) pulled.

    2. LCL*

      Are you union? If yes, first step is to talk to your union rep. Whether you are or not, behave yourself, continue to be professional, and document document document. The weird thing about government work is that the higher up in the organization you go, the easier it is to get fired. Your new boss may think she has the power to get you fired, but if you are a good employee she probably can’t.
      As for being demoralized, tell your yourself managers come and managers go, but you and the org and the mission are still here.

  38. super anon*

    I realized the other day that I’m really lonely at work and it’s contributing greatly to how down and undervalued I feel. My unit is really toxic and no one talks to me because none of my coworkers like me. Whenever I do talk to my coworkers about work related things it’s like walking on eggshells because I don’t know how they will react, if they will get angry at me, etc and generally they only ever come to me if they want something from me (and they never take no for an answer). I’m in my own work echo chamber and I never hear from my bosses either – they never meet with me or reply to my emails. The only person in my department who talks to me is interviewing for another job and will likely leave in the next few months. After that happens I will be all alone.

    I’m actively looking for another job, but it doesn’t help how lonely I feel now! I’m an introvert and don’t mind being alone, but this kind of isolation is new to me. I never realized how having coworkers I got along with and being able to take a break and talk to someone really improved my mood at work.

    1. TootsNYC*


      Find something friendly to do right after work? Ideal would be someone you can commute home with who likes you.

    2. Megs*

      That totally sucks, I’m sorry! I had this experience last year – I’ve been doing temp work and was alternating between two employers for a while. One employer is laid back and there are a lot of people who’ve worked there a while and are friendly. The other employer ran a much tighter ship and discouraged chatting. I could show up in the morning and not exchange a word with another human being all day. We’re doing really brainless work so being able to chat about movies or my cats or complain about how brainless the work is really lightens up the day. I stopped working in the second location entirely.

    3. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

      Oh! Oh!
      Me too! And I might actually be able help on this one. (I deeply apologize for the long message; I don’t have many people to talk to about this stuff either, and maybe I need to get it out as much as I think it could help someone else, as so many people here have lent their anonymous advice to me)
      I think I’m introverted in that way too, and I recently relocated to a very different part of my country; so, no friends here, and I honestly, really, really don’t think I’ll go out of my way on that, since my values are so vastly different from most of the people I meet. That’s not to say there aren’t lovely people I could get along with here, but I’d rather eventually be in a place that generally shares my values and have a larger pot of potential homies to choose from, than be in a place where I’m as likely to make a really new good friend as I an to get hit by a bus.

      For example, one of the things I am interested in (I do not currently work in the education field) is reforming/reevaluating education standards, to work toward a universal standard of primary education and better prepare students to enter the working world. Maybe my views didn’t come across the right way, but when I tried to go into my idea during a lunch one day, I found a certain coworker completely, flat-against everything I tried to say. This coworker was my network into this position, so I found the entire thing demoralizing, and it left me confused about my relationships with coworkers, and what was appropriate to talk about at work (I mean, I was just expressing my dissatisfaction with my own school experience and how I would have improved it; didn’t think I was trespassing into offensive territory). Within a moment, my work-ally had been lost and turned; I stopped eating lunch with my coworkers entirely, and after being turned down for after-work drinks a few times, I stopped even trying to associate with this coworker, who, again, was how I found out about the job.

      What makes it all worse is that I am a recent grad, first job, trying to get some office experience so I networked my way into a reception gig. I have no idea how to do my job without direction, other than the intuitive ‘order more toilet paper when we’re low’, and I find that many of my ideas that would prove initiative get knocked back down by my boss (who does call herself a bit of a micromanager, but due to my inexperience, I’m not above saying my ideas just aren’t what she’s looking for). So, I REQUIRE my coworkers to talk to me and give me instructions when they have a project they want me to work on. How they feel about me determines how much time they are willing to sacrifice out of their own work day to basically train me, and as a front-desk-person, I have no one in my department with me; so it’s a bargaining game for me. How much respect do I want to lose by taking more of their time to ask questions when they give me instructions that aren’t clear, or that I just don’t understand because I don’t have the background to understand without some added exposition?

      So, back to the present and how I got over (really am still working on getting over) those feelings of fear and anxiety that I HAVE to cordially communicate with coworkers who I feel/fear loathe my presence, my ideas, and worse, the light inside me that I feel motivates me to change things around me for the better.
      Here’s what I texted a friend when I was at wit’s end:
      “OK, so,
      “How do I handle feeling like everybody at work hates me?
      “I know the common sense answer is to not care, but it’s hard when taking into account that I have no friends up here and am unlikely to make any considering how things are going.”
      She said : (all in one message; btw we do not work together)
      “I felt that way when I first started here. There are two women who sit in cubes next to me and they were always whispering and instant messaging each other and I assumed it was about me. I just had to “kill them with kindness”. At work, I am not my wild, talkative, trouble-making self. I try to be a classy, meek, well-mannered ‘student’.
      “I have earned the respect of the other ladies who work here because they don’t look at me as a little girl anymore, rather as one of their peers. That comes from mature conversation and not from folding under pressure.
      “I just got back from having lunch with them, in fact.
      “Some jobs you may not make friends. I thought that when I first started because everyone was much older and there was a scandal with the girl I replaced… but you may be surprised.
      “Just be optimistic ALWAYS that they don’t hate you.”

      I guess that’s what I’d like to impart to you – just don’t give up. I mean, if you’re truly in a toxic work environment, then get out, because it’s likely that every negative interaction is grinding you further into a rut of ‘this is just how things are’ – that can turn to ‘this is just how things are everywhere’ if it’s supported enough. But if your fear and assumption that everyone hates you (especially if you are rationalizing that they have TIME to do this; that’s not to say work bullies aren’t out there, just look at whether the problem exists more in your head vs objective evidence that they actually feel this way) is leading you to exponentially withdraw entirely from your coworkers, then try to look for a balance of how much interaction you can stand with the ones you feel don’t like you. The key is to look for phrases you can use to change topics, drop a line of humor without going into a whole story or making any serious points. You don’t have to feel like you’re getting along with them on a personal level, but endure your time with a smile and prove to those who you think don’t like you that you’ve got some good stuff going on, regardless of their nonsense.

      I got this quote from AAM, and it has been painstakingly written out in beautiful cursive letters (also, when I’m especially stressed, I write it over and over, elementary-school-punishment-style) :
      “Survive your time by pretending you are studying aliens just prior to their demise.”

      You can survive this time period. Focus on why you’re there (experience, paycheck, etc), throw yourself into those avenues, and forget the haters, bruh!

      1. super anon*

        Thank you for the advice! I can’t use it now, because it isn’t that I think my coworkers hate me (I probably should have said dislike, hate is a pretty strong word) – I know for a fact they don’t like me. They’ve sabotaged my work, talk behind my back, accuse me of lying about my race to get my job, and the list goes on and on. I purposefully withdrew from everyone because I had been burned multiple times trying to get to know people. If anyone learned any personal information about me they used it against me – including the fact that my father died shortly after I started working here. People here gossip a lot – one coworker told everyone that I realized I was in over my head in my position and was freaking out, when in reality I was upset with her because she had done something to undermine my work that made me look really bad. So, I guess my loneliness has been self-imposed for self preservation and I probably shouldn’t complain, but it still really sucks.

        1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

          Wow, they literally are haters. I’m so sorry you have to feel that way.

          Using a family death as ammunition for workplace drama, instead of supporting you? Saying that YOU manipulated information about your race in order to get your job?? Considering that the expectations in a fair and just world (and, as it turns out, WHAT IS LEGAL in the US (saying that now, I’m realizing that I don’t know if you are in the US or what the practices are elsewhere in the world)) is for employers to not take race into consideration when hiring, that should NEVER have been an issue.

          (As an aside, my grandmother recently died; people made a lot of assumptions that since she was a “grandma” that she was old and I should have seen it coming, I shouldn’t be so bereaved, etc. She was actually murdered, by her husband, and a very health-conscious lady, so no, no one saw it coming.)

          Well, at least you know where you stand with them; use that. Figure out exactly what they’re going to be coming to you for (TPS reports? teapot-scrubbery?), how often they’ll need it done, note little weird things unique to that person’s preferences and follow them even when you’re at your lowest (make it a personal pride thing, however you can spin it to yourself that you’re doing these things for yourself, not for them), and above all, get out (in good time, of course) with your head held high and chalk this one up to the time you worked with (worked with in this case meaning : ‘Made money / gained experience from co-signing on a bullsh*t contract with’) Aliens from the Planet Snob Breath.
          Try to find a part of your day that you can escape them. I used to not take lunches with my coworkers as part of the self-protection you identified, but now it’s the absolute best part of my day to run an errand during lunch and listen to music in my car. Music can be a great momentary escape – let it do the feeling emotions / running the mouth for you.

          Also, for some hope:
          One of the reasons I thought a particular coworker did not like me was the way she spun around in her chair when I approached her to ask a question, and the subsequent blank evil stare that made me instantly second-guess myself. Seriously. It sounds petty; why couldn’t I just not make eye contact with her until she had spun around to face me? Because it was terrifying. She is one of those people (honestly I think I do this too when particularly incensed) whose eyebrows invade her upper forehead when she’s focusing, listening extra hard, stressed out, challenged, or frustrated. Seriously, it looks like an evil villain spinning around to face the protagonist in a movie (think Austin Powers; please, do.).
          All she meant when she turned around was, “What was that?”
          All I see when she turns around is, “WHERE THE F**K IS MY WHITE CAT; NOW WHAT DO **YOU** WANT?!?”
          Well, said coworker just came by to tell me about a funny story and to offer to grab me a beer, since I can’t leave my desk. I think she’s a bit introverted as well; maybe I saw her getting along with everyone, and applied blanket reasoning that she was part of that hater, discriminatory crowd. It’s possible a few of the people you work with don’t like the environment either, and they don’t realize where *you* think you stand in it all; maybe they think you’ve embraced the lonerhood, that you’ve already decided they’re all terrible, and there’s no point in trying to persuade you otherwise.
          I doubt it, as you seem pretty conscientious about the whole deal. Food for thought though.

          And I genuinely hope you know you’re in the right here by just trying to get through your work day and go unnoticed in a sea of crapitude. Probably everyone has had a job they they just didn’t fit the social environment; do what you gotta do to get by, get paid, and get out.

    4. Terra*

      That sucks and I offer virtual hugs should you want them. Talking (phone call, email, text, IM) to a friend outside the office on your lunch break could help if you can arrange it. If you’re an introvert who wants to be around friendly people but not necessarily talk to them you could try going to something like a gym or fitness class after work? Or make a point of stopping at a store or restaurant on your way home to get a drink. You’d be surprised how quickly just being “a face” that comes in regularly at these places makes you someone people recognize and feel friendly toward. You get the benefit of smiles/waves/small talk but either limited face-to-face time or a culture that tends to emphasize letting people do their own thing so you don’t have to talk more than you want.

      1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

        and +1 million for the getting to become a “face”.
        It’s pretty rewarding to hear “you like your Bloody Mary extra spicy, right?”

        The delivery drivers that deliver to my work are so friendly; I saw my UPS guy out earlier while running an errand at lunch.
        And what do you know? He just pulled up to my work!

  39. Monique*

    Does anyone have any tips for interview/business-appropriate things to do with long hair? I’ve worked for a very casual company for a long time now, and I’d love to get other people’s perspective on what’s appropriate in a more formal setting. I’m not married to the long hair, but I like it. I’d be happy to cut it if that made more sense, though.

    1. Laura*

      There is no reason you should cut your hair! I know Alison mentioned in an old post that you should style it somehow for formal business settings so it’s not just hanging. A bun or ponytail is perfect for an interview.

    2. Kasia*

      Honestly I can’t really think of anything inappropriate for long hair? I think you’re over thinking it, as long as it looks neat you can wear it down, up, whatever.

      1. Monique*

        Thanks for the input!

        My hair is wavy/borderline curly, so it can get a little frizzy (nothing major, just a bit fluffy), which is making me worry about it looking too scruffy for a business setting.

        I think I’d be less concerned if it was simply straight, but I look very odd with straight hair…

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have long curly hair and I work in a very casual environment. But when I go to client meetings and when I worked in a more corporate place, I go with a “half-up” hairstyle. Gets my hair off my face but keeps the long, curly look. I also occasionally pull it back into a ponytail. I experiment a lot with braiding.

      In other words, keep your long hair. The only thing you ever really need to do is keep it off your face. This question makes me wish headbands and clips were back in style.

      1. Talvi*

        I’ve found this one might depend on how long your hair is – I have the hardest time getting my hair into a Gibson tuck because it’s verging on being too long to get it all tucked up neatly. Which is a shame, because I love the look of the Gibson tuck, but every time I try it ends up falling out all over the place!

    4. Long Hair*

      Basically anything other than wild and loose for formal situations. I usually just put mine in a plain braid, even for interviews. A low bun is also a simple classic and hard to offend with. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    5. Susan C*

      Rule of thumb, which I think pilfered from over at Corporette, but has served me well; do with it whatever will make you not think about it.

      I, for one, have a bad habit of picking on the skin at he back of my head, or play with my hair in general, which doesn’t really positively impact my professional image, so I have absorbed many, many hours of youtube tutorials on up-dos, fishing for the most sturdy and low-key cute ones. If you, otoh, get itchy and distracted by too many bobby pins poking you, leave them down, or in a neat, low ponytail.

      Pretty much everything goes, except maybe too flashy accessories.

    6. Kelly L.*

      I wear a plain braid most days. Before that, I liked using a big claw clip to hold it all up in sort of a pseudo-French-twist, but I broke my favorite clip and haven’t found a replacement I like, plus it had started making my scalp ache. The braid keeps it out of the way and keeps it from getting tangled as I go about my day; if I wore it down, I’d be re-brushing it every hour.

    7. justsomeone*

      When my hair was longer than my shoulders, I’d sweep it up into a sleek bun for interviews. Not a sock bun or those messy “Saturday morning” buns, but a really sleek bun. It was up, it was professional and it was out of the way. You could also do a braid or a low Belle twist – the insideout ponytail. Long hair has lots of professional ways to wear it. You can also just wear it down, or half down with a clip holding some back from your face. Pinterest will have lots of good photos to reference.

    8. apopculturalist*

      Sometimes, when I think a slicked back bun reads too “stuffy,” I do a half-up/half down look. Pulling your hair away from your face somehow looks more polished, you know?

      Or, since you tend to do one long braid, why not pin up the braid for a cool, low bun?

    9. Sunflower*

      I like the general rule that for interviews, you should be yourself but a bit more dressed up. That’s how you find a job that’s a good fit. I think that just about any hair style is fine as long as it looks clean and well taken care of.

    10. themmases*

      I think the most important thing is really to have it out of your face, especially for an interview.

      I usually do a low side bun or ponytail when I can’t have my hair just hanging there. I reserve some hair at the front that I twist back and around the place my hair is fastened, both for some interest and to cover up any hair ties. You can actually get a surprising amount of easy variety out of buns and ponytails, just Google phrases like “easy hair” or “easy updo” for ideas.

      Day to day I see no problem with wearing long hair down, although if it’s in your face a lot you might want to pin that part back. My hair is wavy and can tend to get a bit fluffy over the course of the day. I’ve found that keeping in in a braid when I don’t need it to look that nice helps a lot– if my hair seems dry I’ll put dry oil on my hands to incorporate that while I braid it. Then I’ll just leave it braided until I need to look presentable. It also helps to put some gel in at the end of my shower when my hair is soaking wet. With the right product and amount, hair does not look gelled or feel sticky at all. It just helps protect your hair from some of the moisture fluctuations you will experience day to day.

    11. Terra*

      My hair is very (sit on it) long and I tend to go with a simple coil (sometimes called a coil bun or top knot). Make a pony tail roughly where you want the final product to be centered. Twist loosely until it’s together enough you can manipulate it without pieces falling all over then coil it around itself until you get to the end. Tuck the ends under and hold in place with bobby or spin pins at the base or use a claw clip. It looks polished without pulling on my head too bad or being fancy enough to draw attention.

    12. Ellie*

      I twist my hair into a low bun right at the bottom of my head, with a side parting. Keeps it out of the way and also makes it look like less hair than it is, which saves on the ‘your hair is so long!’ comments. My hair is past knee-length, so any way of wearing it down feels unprofessional to me.

      I have just found instructions about how to do a french twist with long hair though, so I’m planning on trying that once I get the right pins.

  40. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    The bf interviewed for a lateral position (slightly higher paying too, and he was leveraging his masters). Silly question, but what are the perks of a lateral role? How much more can one earn? Has it helped further your career path/where you ultimately ended up?

    1. Juli G.*

      It’s more about experiences than money (although you can often can an increase, especially if it’s an external lateral job).

      For example, in my company, you need global experience to be a director. If you’ve been completely focused in one country, you may need to take a lateral role with a different country focus (or in a different country) before you get promoted.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’ve done lateral moves that exposed me to a different size of organization. Then, because I’d seen how two different sizes worked, I could move one level up at either. Basically, broadening instead of specializing.

    3. MaryMary*

      I agree with Juli G. and TootsNYC, but another plus for me in making a lateral move was getting a better title. I had a Lead title, even thought I had project, financial, and people management responsibilities. I moved to a similar role in another part of the company and got a Manager title. I was interested in the responsibilities of the new role, but the better title was a nice bonus!

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, that was the only plus from my former lateral move at the law firm where I used to work (no raise was given).

  41. Fawnling*

    I think I screwed up.

    I am currently employed and I interviewed for a company I previously worked for that I absolutely loved. I was a student worker and was forced to find work after graduation and found a small business in my field, but I’ve never been truly happy here. The manager of my old job contacted me a few months ago about a position being open so I applied for it and forgot about it.

    Last week I was contacted for an interview and I feel that it went well. At the end of the interview my ex-manager asked if my boss knew (no) and if he could contact him as a reference. I said yes because the only professional references I had were interviewing me.

    After leaving the interview I felt a little panicked about boss finding out, so I researched and found that it is NOT the norm to have an interviewer speak with your current boss. I received an email a few days after the interview stating that I would be notified before my boss was called. I stewed over the weekend about it and decided I’d forewarn my boss. I met with him the following week and let him know the situation and that I was not actively seeking employment elsewhere, but that this opportunity was brought up to me and that he may receive a phone call. He thanked me for letting him know.

    It may just be me being sensitive, but I now feel that things are awkard. I’ve noticed this week that my coworkers have been given opportunities that I normally would have been given, and I am stuck doing the regular day-to-day grind. Is there any way to come back from this? It’s been a week and a half since my interview and I haven’t received word on whether my references have been called. I’m thinking that maybe I should have kept my mouth shut in case my ex-manager never called or considered me for the position.

    1. Megs*

      You might have screwed up, but it’s probably too early to tell. It might be this week has nothing to do with you saying anything, it might be that they’re treating you different but it’ll blow over if it’s clear you’re not leaving after all, or hey, maybe you get the new job and don’t have to worry about it any more.

    2. ASJ*

      Is it possible that the awkwardness is more on your side? It’s not ideal that you said they could call your boss, but I think it was wise of you to give him the heads-up rather than just let him get a surprise call (doesn’t AAM always recommend telling references before the fact?). I would just give it a little more time and focus on doing the best at your job that you possibly can in the meantime. Try to put this other job out of your head entirely.

  42. Batshua*

    Hey, folks!

    I need some advice. I’ve been told I need to swear less by a coworker.

    Understand, I’m not shouting; it’s mostly frustration at the computer under my breath, or the one that got me in trouble today was “I shouldn’t beat myself up; I’ve done a hell of a lot so far today”. It wasn’t a comment even made at full voice.

    I don’t really think of myself as someone who swears at work, but clearly I’m not doing a good enough job. How best can I handle this? I don’t want to be irritating jackass coworker, but it’s also not like I’m cursing. Swear words are coming out of my mouth, yes, and I clearly need to be more conscious of them, but I’m unsure how to best … navigate this.

    1. Monique*

      ‘A hell of a lot’ is not swearing, in my book. I don’t know if the stuff under your breath is more spicy than that, but if it isn’t, your colleague is over-reacting massively.

      1. Batshua*

        Yeah, I thought perhaps she’s having a case of tender ears, but I don’t really know how to respond to it. I can’t tell her not to be offended; in another life (middle school), I certainly would’ve been. I know she objected to “freakin'” when I was “yelling” (stage whispering) at my computer, and I could certainly work on toning it down, but I mean, as spicy as my swearing can get OUTSIDE of work — I’m great at agglutinative swears — I don’t really do the kind of stuff *most* people find inappropriate at work.

        I’m willing to try to tone it down, but what do I tone it down TO?

          1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

            Oh yes!!! Start swearing in Klingon! Great idea!

        1. fposte*

          She objected to “freakin'”?

          Have her come sit in my office for a day. She will be desperate to get back to you.

        2. Manders*

          If your coworker’s objecting to “freakin” then I’m not sure vocabulary is the actual problem here. I grew up in an area where “hell” was sometimes considered a curse word and I NEVER heard anyone objecting to freaking, frigging, and similar words. She also has a very, very strange definition of “yelling.”

          Does she come off as overly concerned or upset when people are frustrated or annoyed about work-related things? Does she seem unusually sensitive to noises or voices in general? Would it be possible to block out some of your muttering with music or a white noise machine?

        3. Lily in NYC*

          Oh hell no! Your coworker is oversensitive. Feel free to ignore her and if she brings it up again, or tell her that the words she has issues with aren’t even swears. And if she thinks hell is rude because of her religion, that’s her problem unless you work in a church.

      2. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Agreed. Dropping an F bomb in a meeting or shouting it when Outlook hangs AGAIN is one thing, but muttering the word “hell” under your breath is not a big deal. Co-worker can clutch their pearls on their own time.

      3. Monique*

        Could you have a conversation with your colleague where you explain that from your point of view, you’re not swearing all that much or all that seriously, and it a) slips out when you’re frustrated and b) can be cathartic sometimes; promise to try to minimise it, and ask if she can let it go the rest of the time?

        If she can’t work with that, I’d be tempted to just nod and smile when you’re told to swear less, and carry on as you please. Her radar is off here, not yours.

      4. AndersonDarling*

        I wonder if it isn’t so much the swearing, but the co-worker is perceiving it as aggressive behavior. It may not matter what you say but how you say it. If those under the breath comments sound like they are filled with rage, the attitude could be disturbing the co-worker.

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          That was a position I was in last year. Very quiet office, but my cube neighbor would mutter angrily under his breathe. Yeah he swore and I disliked that, but it was the angry tone that bothered me. Often, it was out of the blue and disruptive to my concentration.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree with this.

          I would bet it’s far more the idea that you’re yelling at your computer. I mean, come on–the problems are frustrating, I get it, but that kind of thing just happens, and yelling at a computer is not going to do anything.

          The fact that this sort of minor, expected hangup has you verbally attacking something can be a little disturbing.

          OK, the “I’ve done a hell of a lot today” isn’t in the same mode, but if you cut down on yelling at the computer, and watch your tone, it might go a long way.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            OP made it clear that the “yelling” was really a stage whisper. Coworker is being oversensitive.

            1. TootsNYC*

              any aggression and animosity may still easily come through. After all, the coworker DID hear her correctly. Therefore, it was audible to her.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      What you could do is try and be mindful for a day or a week about how often you swear and what you say. Maybe your coworker does have a point? Maybe you don’t swear much but they just don’t approve of that kind of language, they could have a religious objection to swearing.

      Another thing you can do once you’ve decided how the swearing is a problem: substitute words. Cheese n’ rice. Shut the Front Door. I’m sure people from the Bible Belt would have some experience of what words to use but here’s a weblink:

      Or curse in a foreign language. Scheisse is a good one. I sometimes swear in French Canadian because well, it’s kind of fun. Crisse de tabarnak! Câlisse! Osti! It may not necessarily the word, but the way you say it that gives the relief.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “It may not necessarily the word, but the way you say it that gives the relief.”

        And it may be that the way you say it is what is causing the problem. It’s really, really unsettling to be next to someone who is speaking violently.

        1. Daisy Steiner*


          I’m comfortable with almost every swear word in a work context, but not when they are spoken in anger. Only to add flavour.

          Fine: “Oh s**t, not this again”, “F**k it, I’m going home” etc.
          Note fine: “F**k you”, “Stop being a b***tch” etc.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I agree! I was just giving the OP the benefit of the doubt that it’s not a violent explosion at people/things but more of the first ones you noted.

    3. Analyst*

      It’s probably not so much the swearing as the abrupt negative vibes you’re putting out into your office when you are mad at your computer. I have a coworker like this… she’s across from me and she hates our database so she vents at it and bangs her mouse about in anger. She otherwise has a very calm, agreeable temperament and is not prone to swearing or yelling or anything, but each and every time she tells the computer how she feels, it pops my work bubble and stresses me out a little as well.

      So, your venting at your computer or giving yourself pep talks is probably distracting as well. Just be cognizant of your sounds (and always use your internal voice to communicate with yourself) and your officemates will be ever appreciative.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. How many times a day do you do this, OP. I don’t care if people swear. I do care if it is every five minutes all day long, every day. I can’t take the constant mini-blow ups. I feel like saying, “Yeah, I am having difficulty with x,y and z today and I am not blowing up throughout the day because it interrupts other people’s work and it makes me look like I am a five year old child who cannot cope with the slightest frustration.” For the record, there ARE days when I cannot cope with the slightest frustration. But that is my problem not anyone else’s problem.

        While hell, freakin, friggin’ and other words may not be true swear words, if you have a job working with the public you do not ever use those words. Someone WILL file a complaint against you. So let’s call them not-a-good-idea-to-use-repeatedly words. Expand your vocab, OP. Learn to express yourself without heavy reliance on these words. Which, if you think about it, if someone says friggin’ in every sentence it no longer means anything anyway. It’s more of a lazy speech pattern that an actual word.

        Currently, I have a friend that I do some projects with. I have timed him. He blows a string of cuss words every 15 minutes all day long. By the end of the day, I am exhausted from it. I have tried telling myself to remember the little boy who cried wolf, because this is what my friend is doing. He goes into meltdown over the simplest things. Let’s say he dumps nails on the floor accidentally. This involves ten minutes of cussing and two seconds of picking up the nails. It’s faster to just pick up the nails. Not only is the cussing a huge waste of time, he is tiring himself out needlessly with all this negative thinking. I have worked with a lot of people. It’s been my observation that people who stay away from the cussing streaks get more work done and get it done with higher accuracy.
        People who are able to say, “Oh, I made a mistake, okay. I will just fix it and move on”, make out better than the people who vent/cuss.

        One last story and then I will shut up. Another friend was watching my cussing friend work. My second friend’s comments went like this, “Bob does not believe in his own skill set. That is why he cusses all the time because privately he thinks he cannot do the work. He does not believe in himself. ” Is that the message you want to telegraph to people?

        Again, I don’t care if people swear. It’s the anger that goes along with the cussing that does me in.

    4. Quagga*

      Some people have touched on the fact that maybe your coworker isn’t trying to curb your swearing so much as your self-talk. Especially if your desks are very close together, constant chatter, even if it’s quiet, can be pretty annoying when it happens day in, day out. She may be constantly trying to judge whether you’re talking to her or your computer and that can be distracting.

    5. BRR*

      I’m not sure if you’re using more offensive words than “freakin” and “hell” but your coworker is a tad sensitive. I would tell her you’re working on it (and I do think you should try if you’re using worse words that that) and ask her to work on it as well by letting it go sometimes. That Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t do it stop just like that. Now, that’s if you’re dropping f bombs and such. If it’s words like freakin I would say you’ll work on it but I’d probably mention that if it’s ok in a PG movie I’m not going to give it 110%.

      Also explore what others have mentioned that it’s not the actual words but the negativity or the distraction.

    6. InsideTheBox*

      Swearing is unacceptable at my company, but I’ve worked places where the F-Bomb is fine.

      If you are not sure which company yours is talk to your supervisor. I will say that I personally have less respect for people who swear at work, especially in conversations. I figure if you can not make your point without cursing you lack leadership.

      That being said it took me a while to learn not to swear at my computer at work. ;)

  43. Elizabeth*

    With the two different questions about appearance at work this week, and the resulting discussions, I’ve been thinking a lot about dress codes.

    If you have a formal dress code at your organization, what does it say?

    Ours is:
    ID badges must be worn at all times when working.
    Clothing & shoes must fit properly & be neat & clean.
    No jeans.
    No hoodies, fleece or t-shirts.
    Improperly dressed employees will be sent home to change.
    No personal fragrance.
    No visible ink. Tattoos must be covered.
    Visible body piercing are limited to 2 in the ears.
    Hair either should be short or drawn back/up if having patient contact, of a color that appears on humans in nature.

    Slacks no more than 4 inches above the ankle.
    No holes in the clothes
    Skirts should be of modest length.

    Clinical areas are assigned scrub colors based upon credentials.

    1. Monique*

      Don’t ask me why, but I love the ‘of a color that appears on humans in nature’. That’s a magnificent description.

      Our dress code is beyond relaxed. I think the only guy who’s ever been told off wore a bathrobe and shorts (and nothing else). We had a woman who dressed in short Herve Leger style bandage dresses exclusively, which wasn’t a problem.

      I don’t know how I’m ever going to adjust to business attire again when I move on!

      1. MaryMary*

        My high school dress code said that our hair could not be dyed an “unnatural” color. My smartass friends and I insisted that if blue hair was unnatural, so was blonde on a natural brunnette. Another classmate dyed her naturally blond hair black, and never re-dyed it or touched up the roots as her hair grew. She looked like a skunk. The school administration did not approve of her skunk hair, but she pointed out that both black and blonde were “natural” hair colors.

        I believe the next version of the handbook said that students could not dye or bleach their hair. Period.

    2. Just Wondering*

      My work is definitely casual dress. Our dress code bans open toed shoes (although I wear them all the time, and it seems like they really meant to say flip flops), sleeveless shirts, dresses with open backs, and excessive cleavage. Sweatpants aren’t mentioned, but people would look at you funny if you wore them to work. Short skirts seem to be fine if you don’t have bare legs. Bare legs are fine if your skirt isn’t too short. Guys can wear shorts. I make my own clothes, and I tend to wear cotton dresses with leggings most days.

    3. Just Wondering*

      Oh, and hair can be any colour. Mine was recently purple ombre, but has faded to light pink, so it’s going orange tomorrow. Tattoos are fine and commonplace, but facial piercings aren’t, for whatever reason.

    4. super anon*

      we don’t have a dress code. most departments recommend “business casual” – but really anything goes, and you can’t be sent home for anything you wear. in another department i worked in a student worker was told to take off a head scarf (not a hijab). they complained and the unit faced a very serious reprimand from the equity office and higher ups.

      1. Observer*

        Why would they tell her to take off a head scarf? It would be a questionable thing to do, even in a place with a formal dress code. In a place that doesn’t?

        By the way, the reason the equity office got worked up is probably because they are aware that it’s not only Muslim women who cover their hair.

    5. Ad Astra*

      Our official dress code is “Dress appropriately for the client and the occasion.” That’s it. There’s some introductory text about how judgment is important and you shouldn’t wear stuff that makes your coworkers uncomfortable, but it specifically avoids any specific rules. I like it.

      1. Jules the First*

        Oldjob’s dress code was ‘no clothing you would be embarassed to be seen in by your grandmother’ and ‘no footwear that goes thwap’

        Currentjob is equally straightforward/amusing: ‘when dressed appropriately, you should look out of place on a beach.’ Hair and piercings, anything goes (one of our ‘benefits’ is a quarterly appointment with a super-trendy salon, which often results in radically hip hairdos and seriously strange colours)

    6. SusanIvanova*

      “Slacks no more than 4 inches above the ankle.”

      That would be so frustrating – I wear cargo pants because my iPhone goes in my side pocket, but thanks to the whims of fashion, I can’t find any that aren’t also capris. I hate capris, but if one more pair of pants wears out, I may have to buy them.

    7. Terra*

      Ours is anything goes (really anything, ratty jeans and flip flops are a staple) except when we’re doing an event where client’s will be present and then it’s officially “smart casual”. No, there is no official explanation of what that means, just that if a manager feels you don’t meet the standard you can be sent home to change.

    8. Sparkly Librarian*

      Library personnel are required to dress in clean, well-maintained clothing appropriate to their position. Hair must be clean and groomed. You must wear shoes. Please reduce or eliminate scented products. Wear your nametag when in a public area of the library during open hours.

      And then the (nonexhaustive) list of don’ts:
      Torn, see-through, excessively baggy or tight, or otherwise excessively revealing clothing.
      Bare midriffs or shoulders, such as halter tops, spaghetti straps, strapless garments or muscle shirts.
      Shorts, skirts, or dresses shorter than mid-thigh.
      Sweat pants or exercise gear.
      Flip-flop sandals.
      Exposed underwear.

    9. Talvi*

      Wow. I suspect they would object if the “visible body piercing are limited to 2 in the ears” were a couple of helix piercings (earlobe piercings are easy enough to remove; piercings in the cartilage are more fiddly)…

    10. Clever Name*

      We’re super casual, so the stuff that’s banned is-

      Stretch pants worn as pants
      Halter tops
      Tube tops
      Spaghetti strap tops

      I think that’s it.

  44. ashleyh*

    I found out this week that I recieved a discretionary bonus for “exceptional contributions to Company’s goals” that my boss recommended me for and I’m so happy/proud. I’ve only been at my job for about 7 months so it’s awesome to know my hard work is already being recognized! Just wanted to share.

  45. Robert from Iowa*

    I am in a situation at a Fortune 500 company, where I am being taunted by some of my coworkers. While I am OK with playful teasing, what they are doing is crossing the line.

    For example, calling me “r*tard”, “d*ckhead” and “b*tth*le”. I have brought this matter to management; however, they do not see it as a problem, and often go out drinking after work with the employees who say those things. HR is also aware, and does not side with me.

    I suppose if this was a metal shop somewhere or a similar “boys will be boys” environment, it might be expected. However, this is suit and tie territory, and I would expect a certain amount of professionalism.

    Am I being too sensitive in not wanting to be called these things?

    If not, what is my next step, short of finding another job?

    1. Is it me?*

      You aren’t being too sensitive. I used to have to HR the “banter” crowd where I used to work. It is only funny if everybody is laughing, otherwise it is just people being jerks.
      Have you tried telling them directly to stop calling you these things?

      If you are feeling intimidated, or being made to feel uncomfortable in your working environment and have reported it and nothing – is there somebody higher you could speak to?

      Personally, if your HR team knows about it and are doing nothing – they suck, your managers suck and the company sucks. Take yourself elsewhere where you don’t have to deal with frat boy jerks.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Okay, that is absolutely horrible. This makes no sense. I don’t know anyone who would *want* to be called names. Even in “a metal shop” (a place where I would assume even the most hardened sort wouldn’t want to be called mentally incapacitated on a repeated basis.) Can you go up the chain?

      I’m in education, a field in which your colleagues’ behavior would get them disciplined and eventually fired (in every place I’ve worked.) I’m sorry this is happening to you. I wish I had real advice other than job hunting. I hope someone else has more advice.

    3. ashleyh*

      Fwiw, I work in a shop environment and we literally just fired someone this week for similar remarks.

      If you’ve said “hey, that’s super offensive, stop” (who the heck says the r word in 2016?!) to the offenders, brought it up to your boss, said something to HR, and STILL nothing is being done, you need to go up higher (who is above HR’s head?). If still nothing is being done, then you might just work at a really terrible place with terrible people and have to decide if that’s how you want to continue working….

    4. AndersonDarling*

      My blood is boiling just reading those words and imagining someone teasing me with them at my job. Those aren’t buddy-buddy words, they are bully words.

    5. fposte*

      Are you the only person that gets called this stuff? If so, do you know why you’re being singled out?

      There are different things to try–you don’t say if you’ve asked them directly to stop, but obviously that’s the first step. Mostly, though, if this is basically hazing the newbie that’s stuck because you’re clearly uncomfortable, I’d try taking the fun out of it for them. Sometimes that’s easier to do individually–ask them, one on one in a quiet moment, to dial it back–or sometimes you can do that in the moment by taking the comments with sincere concern. “Lucifer, if you’re calling me a dickhole you must be really angry with me about something. That would have to be the Fonebone project–let’s go over that so that I can be sure I’ve addressed your concerns.” Basically, the consequences they get for insulting are the driest work summaries ever.

    6. MaryMary*

      Does your company have an HR hotline? A lot of large companies do specifically for situations like this. Even if local HR thinks it’s okay, corporate HR might strongly disagree (esp the r-word!).

      If you go that route, be prepared for some hostilities. You’re in the right, but your local coworkers are not going to like you going over their heads. Finding another job might be best in the long run anyways.

  46. Is it me?*

    Hi – for context I have anxiety. I have a handle on it, but in cases that are really intense or confrontational I get really overwhelmed.

    I need ‘how to deal with co-worker advice’ as I have started to get migraines following what should be simple interactions that turn into massive blow-ups.
    So – I have just taken over as office manager for an amazing company. On my first day I was briefed about this lady, but wow – I have never met anybody who can literally cause a days worth of drama in an empty room

    I am finding it really draining. Today, I let her know that we will not be restocking the client fridge on her floor because the floor is not used for 75% of the time. I received 5 emails which ranged from accusations of discrimination, to would she still be allowed to have tea and coffee, to then complaining about the size of water bottles we provide for meetings.
    Yesterday I told her that our boss would write her biog (like he does all staff) – she found it so offensive she sat under her desk and cried for an hour.
    She had a migraine the other day, she threw up (in front of freelance staff) in the communal bin, refused to go home, walked around in sunglasses all day with a carrier bag hanging off her wrist and took out the lights in her cubicle. She then went into a client meeting and acted in exactly the same way – then curled up under her desk and slept.

    The drama that surrounds this person, I am finding is too much and it is really dragging me down. I have to interact with her as part of my job, but her responses are just so over the top that they are affecting me physically (headaches, nausea, stomach aches) and I am struggling.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      “our boss would write her biog (like he does all staff) – she found it so offensive she sat under her desk and cried for an hour.”

      Wow. That’s some major-league crazy right there. And I’ve consoled coworkers who have had breakdowns at work for actual reasons.

      I would let your boss know that she’s causing a productivity issue. She’s a drama llama and she is taking up a disproportionate amount of your time. That’s your business case, and IMO it’s appropriate to put it back on her manager, who apparently is yours, too. Run it by your boss and see what he says.

    2. Temperance*

      Do you have interactions with her boss? She sounds mentally ill in a way that makes working with her difficult and it’s impacting your own anxiety. I would clue her boss in and/or ask for help in dealing with her.

    3. Froggy*

      I think the very best thing that you can do is remind yourself that you have no control over how she behaves. You are acting in a professional manner and her reaction is no responsibility of yours.

      When you have to interact with her, do it as you would with any other employee. If she reacts badly consider if any other employee would be behaving the way she is. If they would not, continue in your calm, firm, professional manner and then leave her to her own devices. Do not get swept up in her dramatic responses, do not treat her differently because she behaves in that way.

      I’m sure everyone at the company is aware that she behaves inappropriately. This reflects badly on her, this does not reflect badly on you. You are not “causing” her behavior. You are doing your job and she is choosing to react in this manner.

      I work with a few people that used to cause me intense physical anxiety because their reactions were so unpredictable. However, I was always just doing my job and doing it correctly. Their reactions only reflected on them, not on me. Anyone who witnesses it says things like “Sorry about Wakeen, he is just like that”. It is hard but as long as you build up the confidence in your own skills and behaviors, you’ll be able to ignore her reactions as something completely outside of your control.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I think dealing with her is above your pay grade. I bet you can shake this off, have some good stories to tell over family dinner, and she’ll be gone at some point sooner or later.

      Just give her some wide berth and only interact when necessarily, always keeping calm and reasonable (and firm).

    5. BRR*


      If you need to interact with her, I would just say what you need to say and beyond that let her operation in her sphere of real housewives drama. Her sphere of drama surrounds her, she might try and drag others into it but you just have to not let her pull you in. I don’t think anybody could like her so you have to be professional but not spend extra time worrying about how you look.

      Jane: Will we still have coffee and tea?
      You: Yes

      *Jane send a flame email with no questions*

      I would possibly bring something up to your manager in how she’s affecting your work or if her actions are abusive. If somebody accused me of discrimination I would let my manager know ASAP.

    6. Terra*

      Are you performing the HR role for this company (or branch)? If not then I’d go to HR and ask for advice and policy explanations. For example at most businesses I know staying at work with a migraine when you threw up and it’s clearly still an issue would not be okay.

      If you are performing an HR role then you need to establish with your manager how much authority you have over her (and possibly asking them to establish it with her as well). Then in the future you need to just tell her “this is inappropriate, I need you to do x or I need you to leave.” At first she’s going to be mad but hopefully as time goes on she’ll realize she’s hit a wall and give up.

      Also, stress migraines suck. There’s a lot of advice for dealing with the physical symptoms on the internet but you may also want to consult a doctor or therapist if possible. I’m also a sufferer so I may start a thread over the weekend about advice and see if anyone else has suggestions.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Decide not to wear her symptoms for her. It sounds to me like you are picking up her symptoms. So at the start of the headache, etc.make a deliberate effort to say no, this is her discomfort not mine. It takes practice, so if you don’t get rid of the pain the first week or two that you use this technique, that is okay. Just keep doing it.

      I would collect up her emails and ask your boss how he wants you to handle it. Find out what the limits are to your authority, do you have to deal with this?

      Talk with responsible people in the office and find out what they are doing. Some personalities are such that if you tell them NO loud and clear once, then the problems stop. They find someone else to make miserable. Ask them what they have used that has been successful. Remember to only ask people whose opinions you respect, though.

  47. Just got promoted*

    The majority of my work history has been dismal. The market crashed a year after I graduated college, and I was laid off. I was then unemployed or underemployed for several years straight. I then got a Job From Hell that was truly bad for my health. I job searched the entire two years I worked there.

    Last year I finally got a job I wanted, and it paid 125% of my previous job. And this week I got promoted with a 20% raise!! I can’t believe how much my career has improved in the past two years.

    I think a lot of it is simply the job market getting better, but in any case I wanted to give some encouragement to people stuck in jobs they hate.

  48. Angelica*

    When you realized that your current career wasn’t for you, what did you do to figure out where to go next?

    Over the past year and a half, I’ve realized that my current job (and the field it’s in) is really not for me. I don’t HATE the job itself, but there’s no upward mobility to be had. Also, the pay is pretty low (like, really low). I feel like there HAS to be a better career out there for me. However, I’m scared to make any sort of career move (or even plan an exit) because I think that I don’t KNOW how to make good career choices. In university I chose to study what I loved (lol) and now here I am. I’m really not interested in working in a field I love at this point in my life, I just want enough money to live on. I just don’t know what to do now!

    1. Mishka*

      I posted about this below too! I am planning for a career switch soon-ish, but I don’t know where I’d like to be (yet). I have been thinking about what I like and dislike about my job/field. Start with that. Which day-to-day tasks do you like? What do people tell you you do well? What do you never want to do again? What kind of workload/pace do you like? What’s important to you in terms of benefits/flexibility/salary? Do you want to go back to school?

      I just started reading through job postings and noting which ones sounded interesting and like something I’d like to do. That has given me an idea of what skills I should try to develop now.

    2. Jade*

      There was a post about this the other day that had some really great advice from AAM and the comments section: The points that stick out to me: 1) Browse a job board to see what kinds of jobs out there are things that pique your interest. The goal is to figure out what kind of work you would like to do, and then work from there to figure out what education/training you’d need to achieve that. 2) Make a list of your marketable skills- everything from “experience in customer service” to “excellent writing ability” to “good at leading teams”- are things that you can apply to different careers. Think about where you strengths overlap with your interests. 3) Think about what kind of things you need an want out of a career. Is it important for you to make a large salary? A career that’s versatile? A career that is challenging and stimulating? Then compare that to career fields and see what matches your needs. Now, there can be a lot of variation from job to job within certain careers; what I’m talking about is weighing the odds. For instance, if you’re set on making 6 figures, becoming a social worker likely isn’t going to fulfill that.

    3. sarakg*

      I’m in the process of doing something fairly similar right now. Seven or 8 years ago, I sort of fell into a job that some people are really passionate about – it’s the kind of job that kids often say they want and most of my coworkers have wanted their job for their whole life. At the time, I thought I was one of them, but when faced with the actually reality of the job, I realized that while I’m good at it, I have been desperately unhappy in my job. I love the organization I’ve been working for, but my actual job has made me feel really stuck and bored. There’s no upward mobility at all, and I only get more responsibilities not higher level responsibility the longer I’m there.

      To keep myself mentally stimulated, I decided to start teaching myself how to build websites. I now run a couple small sites for a few non-profits, and have a couple very small business clients, as well. In less than a month, I’m going to be starting a full-time professional training program in front-end web development. It’s a 12 week program with a lot of job-searching support (by people who are/recently were hiring in the field!). I gave notice about a month ago, and secretly have been enjoying the shocked looks on all my coworkers.

      I don’t really know that I have any advice, but I do know that for the first time in a really long time, I’ve made an active decision in my career that I feel confident and excited about. It happened because I just took it upon myself to explore something as a hobby that also can be a job. I doubt I’ll be as passionate about any future organization I work for, but I’ve also realized that, for me, that’s not going to be a bad thing. I’m excited for having a M-F workweek and to not wear a uniform for the first time in my working life (I’m mid-thirties), and I’m hoping that the work/life balance and the pay will allow me to be passionate and excited about non-work parts of my life.

      Good luck!

  49. JBurr*

    Oh, my goodness, I got some great interviewing experience this week, and I wanna brag. Senior management wants to involve colleagues and subordinates in the hiring process more at my company, so they asked “Rey”, the counterpart to the open position, and me, the junior HR assistant, to interview the candidates together. It went incredibly well, and we were both able to find things that our managers had missed and changed their evaluations of some of the candidates.

    In particular, one candidate told us she left her last job because of a new manager that she didn’t like and that she painted as being a micromanager that just didn’t like or trust her for no reason. I pressed her for actual concrete examples, and it turned out she’d actually played a huge role in the issues between them, including making a mistake and trying to hide it (and being found out!) and being very resistant to changes the new manager was trying to implement (her previous managers had basically given her free reign, it seemed). Neither my boss nor the hiring manager had thought to dig into that and had thought her a strong candidate until we relayed what we’d found, which essentially took her out of the running.

    My boss heaped compliments on us for our insights and, in my case, joked about the obvious positive effects of his mentoring. He’s not wholly wrong, but I’d definitely give more credit to the community here!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Holy crap, the interviewee actually admitted she tried to hide a mistake??? Whoa. And good for you – I’m a terrible interviewer and even though I’m very involved in our hiring process, I’ve realized that it’s better for everyone if I don’t interview anyone.

  50. afiendishthingy*

    Email abuse of the week:
    2:35 pm, IT director to all staff: new phone rollout canceled
    2:40 pm, middle manager to my department: Fwds the same email, “FYI not sure if you all saw this.”

    I forwarded it a third time to a couple trusted coworkers just for kicks.

    Also yesterday same middle manager announces via department-wide email that she is going to start sending us a weekly email with an updated spreadsheet of which employees are confirmed for trainings. (Only about 1/3 of the department is responsible for signing people up for trainings, the rest of us don’t really need to look at this spreadsheet ever.) I sent a hopefully-polite email back to her suggesting that, in order to avoid confusion, she save it on the shared drive as a protected worksheet and people can just check it when they need to. She is out today but we will see. I’m not super optimistic about her ever changing her ways though; she’s been here forever and redundant department-wide emails are her specialty.

    1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      OMG we have a manager here that does the same thing. Drives me batty.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I think there’s always one. She’s a nice person! She’s just also an Annoying Coworker Archetype.

    2. NarrowDoorways*

      Bahahahahahaha. Okay, reminds me of something from last week.

      I got a phone call from a PR person. “Hey, wanted to talk about such and such news. Are you interested in assigning the coverage on this to a writer? Did you see my email? Blah blah blah.”

      I let him talk while I opened outlook to pull up the email. Typed his name in my search bar and guess what? He’d send it to me SEVEN times in three hours. Yeah, no fricking wonder I didn’t see it. Of course it’s gotten to the point where I ignore his emails without reading.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      Email with the subject “NASA VPN update”.

      I ignored it. Whoo, we have a contract with NASA or something. Yay.

      Nope. NASA in this case means “North America South America” and they’re changing the way we do VPN – something that I actually use. Only found out because one person clicked accidentally and realized the rest of us would have ignored it, because who uses NASA as an acronym for the Americas?

  51. lfi*

    How do you handle being 6.5 months into a new job, and the boss who hired you, fought for you, has been through the trenches and back with you is leaving?

    besides being incredibly sad, i’m worried about what may happen to me. i don’t want to restart the job search because it will look bad on my resume.

    i’m feeling anxious and a little stressed out about how this may all shake down.

    1. Laura*

      Do you have reason to believe you’ll lose your position just because your boss is leaving? If not, why are you worrying? People leave jobs for various reasons all the time. It’s how business works.

      1. lfi*

        it’s more of a… what if her replacement comes in and wants to hire their own people, that’s all.

    2. Sunflower*

      Before your boss leaves, get a written job description. Write up a description of what you do and ask them to sign off on it or edit it and return it to you. Save it as a PDF or something else that has a date stamp and can’t be edited. Also keep your resume up to date.

      The most common thing that happens after a boss leaves is that people’s job descriptions change. People are asked to take on additional responsibilities or get reassigned to different kinds of work. Prepare yourself to advocate for your qualifications if you’re given less challenging work or negotiate a raise if you’re given more challenging work.

      Also try to build a relationship with your boss’s boss if you can. And anyone else in the organization who you have a rapport with or who’s aware of the work you’ve been doing.

      And think about your career goals and where you’d like to go within the organization. If you have specific goals in mind, your boss may even be able to help you before they leave (for example, introducing you to people or assigning you projects that will fit with those goals.)

      1. lfi*

        thanks for all your advice! i definitely have a job description, so thanks – i hadn’t even thought of that.

        my boss’s boss is coming into town for the next few weeks and has already reached out to put time on my calendar for us to sit down and chat about what’s next, what i’d like to do this year, so on.

    3. BRR*

      In what ways did your boss fight for you? I think you’ve been there long enough that probably have a track record that you can show to people.

      1. lfi*

        it has been a lot of we are in this together so to say. we’ve really revamped some things and have taken the time to document all kinds of processes as well as put new ones in place. when i came on board everyone talked about how they had heard great things about me from my boss and were super excited that i was finally here.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      In those six months you learned a lot. Ask your boss, now, before she leaves if she has any more bits of wisdom for you.

      Worst case scenario, you can look for another job. Be careful of the things you tell yourself, very few things in life are actually impossible. If you need a new job, then so be it, you go get a new job.

      HOWEVER, wait and see is your best bet.

      This is a general answer. It could be that your boss works for the guy who poops in people’s lunches and she is the only one protecting your lunch. Or there could be other reasons that have evidence supporting those reasons. If this is the case, then take my answer and throw it away. If you just have an overall nervous feeling that is pretty normal when there is a change in bosses. Most of the time these changes go okay.

  52. oldfashionedlovesong*

    How do you help friends with their job searches? My very close friend from grad school is less than content with her job. Whenever we chat, the conversation turns to commiserating about our current positions and making moves. Often she will call me just to tell what happened at work that week and how unhappy she is. However, I’ve begun to get the impression she doesn’t really want to make the effort to seek out and apply for new opportunities– she’s open about not being sure of her interests in our field and lacking confidence in her abilities. We work in different aspects of the same field, so jobs that would work for her often come up in my own searches (because I’m also unhappy with my current job and am looking for a new one) and I share them with her per her standing request, but nothing seems to come of them.

    She recently was asked to submit her resume for a position that I (and clearly, the person who asked for her resume!) think she would be great for. She said she was really nervous and asked if I would take a look at her resume. I’ve learned a LOT through my reading and commenting on AAM (thanks all!) and I felt sure I could help. It did need significant editing and I spent hours one night after work reworking it from top to bottom. I was happy to do it, but when I sent it back she just replied “Thanks!” and I don’t know if she ever actually looked at my edits or submitted it to the job.

    I feel like I’m more enthusiastic about her potential than she is, and as an introvert it’s kind of draining to use up my limited energy for social interaction, especially after coming home from my own shitty job, having the same conversations over and over with someone who is unhappy but won’t make use of the help you offer to change the things they’re complaining about. What would you do?

    1. afiendishthingy*

      1) You don’t have to always answer her call. Give yourself permission to get back to her later, when you’re up for it.
      2)Change the subject. Maybe set a time limit – say, 5 minutes apiece to vent about your week. You can say “I’d rather just not think about our shitty jobs after 5 pm! How’s your cat/did you watch the Oscars/have you been to any good restaurants?”
      3) Don’t keep responding to a standing request. She can look for jobs herself.
      4) Next time refer her to resources like AaM for job application materials. If she asks you to look over her stuff, tell her to consult those first.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      I said it up-thread about undergraduates, but it probably applies to friends as well: Don’t care more about their career development than they do.

      Also, I think your friend is using you as a pressure-valve. You’re there for her to blow off steam so she can go back to her job without exploding (but still not address the poor fit). I agree with afiendishthingy that you should set a time limit and re-direct. You’re not obligated to play unpaid work therapist!

      1. Doriana Gray*

        All of this.

        OP, stop helping. You’re expending way too much energy on someone who hasn’t shown to appreciate it.

    3. Sunflower*

      I agree with the other commenters. You’ve done a lot to help her. This sounds like it’s part of a bigger issue involving her emotional state and how she feels about her life. And perhaps an issue with relying too much on friends for emotional support. Take care of yourself and step away when you need to.

    4. BRR*

      If you’re good enough friends I’d take a hard line and if she doesn’t like something but won’t do anything about it then she needs to stop complaining about it. In certain situations, you can call people on things like this. My husband wants to be a professor and when he was still in grad school teaching a class he always complained about grading. Finally I started saying “if you don’t like grading it’s good that you caught it now so you can look into different career paths.”

  53. Cathy*

    I am copywriter at a smallish agency. I often write copy that my coworkers (non-writers) try to change or have the final say on. I’m wondering if that’s normal for an agency or if it’s something I should push back on. For context, none of these people are officially in charge of my work, or me, but head projects as project managers, lead designers, etc. I will admit my pride is involved and that I don’t like when new-to-the-workforce designers tell me my messaging “isn’t there yet” (especially when my boss and/or the client often turn out to be fine with it). Do I need to get over myself?

    1. NarrowDoorways*

      I understand your feelings but unless their changes are riddled with errors, you’re probably going to have to let it go. Those types of upper level changes are generally the norm.

      Think of it this way: I’m an editor and hire freelancers. Even though their names are on the byline, I have final say on any and every change I may choose to make.

    2. Ad Astra*

      This sounds pretty normal to me. (Full disclosure: I’m a copy editor at an agency, so I spend much of my day changing copywriters’ work.)

      I encourage you to listen to the changes and evaluate them on an individual basis. People who know the brand/product/client well may have some good insights. You can also negotiate this stuff, to an extent. If the word you used was “racket” and they want to use “symphony,” you can try suggesting “cacophony.” A lot of people are good at identifying when something just isn’t quite right, but non-writers may not have the skills to suggest the best solution.

      The most important thing is not to let other people introduce errors into your writing. That’s when it’s perfectly fine to push back.

    3. Nanc*

      I’ve been doing this for 30 years. At the end of the day, usually the SME or some high up muckity muck has the final say. All I can suggest is to make certain you’re writing to the agency/client style-guide and find a way to learn to let it go (I often bust out a mental chorus of Let It Go–from the musical The Full Monty, not Frozen, which I’ve never seen, when silly changes come back!) and keep doing your best work.

      If you want to invest the time, you could ask the folks questioning your messaging if they can give you an example of the wording they want or if they can show you copy that reflects the tone and voice they’re looking for. If you can find a change they suggested that does work–thank them for the suggestion and use it.

      I’m not always proud of what’s been published, but I work hard to make sure what I submit is my best effort and if someone higher up the ladder changes my copy and signs off, that’s on them and not me. Surprisingly, some folks are so used to bad copy that they are satisfied with mediocre and thrilled by pretty good. Maybe they just can’t handle great!

  54. Anon Frost Mage*

    I interviewed for a job that would be paid hourly at 20/hours per week, but would be treated like a half-time salary role – Sometimes you’d work 10 hours a week, sometimes 30, but the pay is for 20 no matter what. I’ve seen similar jobs being exempt, and some non-exempt, so it’s really in a gray area.

    How big are the red flags this is throwing up?

      1. Almond Milk Latte*

        Can it be salary and also part-time? That’s the part that doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

        1. fposte*

          Yup–I have staff like that.

          To be clear, salary is just a method of payment–it doesn’t mean you’re exempt. But you can also be exempt and part-time. (Though that’s going to be a lot tougher if the threshold for exemption goes up this year as intimated.)

        2. fairyfreak*

          Yes, I am part-time exempt. It works the same way as normal salary exempt, I just get paid at 50 percent of what my full time salary is.

    1. Megs*

      Is this a state job? Some states exempt public employees from overtime rules. I worked for the state judicial system and we had to take time off if we worked less than 40 hours, but weren’t paid extra if we worked more than 40 (which didn’t happen a lot but did sometimes happen).

    2. MaryMary*

      I don’t think it’s a problem to have a part time exempt role from a legal perspective. The red flag I see if your position ends up being over 20 hours on a regular basis. OldJob was good about allowing people to move to a part time role if they wanted, but everyone at that company worked a lot of hours (and nearly everyone was exempt). We had a standing joke that the part time people worked 40 hours, but the full timers worked 60 hours, so 40 hours was “part time” for us. Our part time people were still benefits eligible, and for some people the pay cut was worth it, but I knew a lot of people who ended up quitting because they weren’t really working a part time schedule.

  55. Triangle Pose*

    Perfect timing! I just got an offer for an amazing in-house job today (I’m in BigLaw).

    Wooo! This is so life changing for me and I wanted to thank Alison and all the commenters here for their great advice. I bought Alison’s book and must have reviewed it and make outlines based on the book 4+ times between the phone screen and multiple in-person interviews and the salary negotiation. It totally works! I negotiated comp using the great tips from her posts, everyone’s comments and the book. I was able to negotiate their base salary up 10K, which increased the bonus and equity comp because it’s tied to base, and get a signing bonus and signing stock, totalling more than my current comp! I know increasing salary at the next job is normal, but most BigLaw associates take a pay cut to go in-house. I can’t thank you all enough.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        Thanks Biglaw Stormtrooper! I know we’ve talked about exit options before, good luck with your search!

  56. Mishka*

    I’m thinking of switching careers in the next 1-2 years, but I don’t really have a specific direction yet. I work in IT, and I want to get out of it, for many reasons. I graduated 3 years ago with a BS in math, and I love numbers and analysis, so I’d like to do something that utilizes that. I’m also very organized/detail oriented, so I like working on projects where I can really dig into an issue and learn all the aspects or track changes over time.

    I was browsing job boards and came across some jobs in purchasing/buying that sounded interesting. They were pretty diverse — everything from entering POs to predicting inventory to analyzing sales trends. If anyone works in those roles, I’d love to hear what you like and dislike about them. And how is your workload — steady, slow, fast, more than 40 hours a week?

    1. Eric*

      Hey Mishka,

      While I can’t answer any of those questions for you, there are definitely quite a few fields that are analytical. A few I can immediately think of are: supply chain (purchasing; procurement), market analyst, sales analyst, finance (private equity, maybe accounting, actuarial services).

      Hope that helps you with some keywords for your search :)

    2. Allison*

      I work in procurement. If you like data analysis, look for jobs that are more inventory based. They need more analysis based on pricing, turns, trends and such. Stay away from development, MRO and smaller companies; they are going to be less data based and more varied. Purchasing can be very very fast or super slow. It depends on the day, how good production planning is, and how well you anticipated issues. I love purchasing in all its forms!

    3. CiciO*

      I manage pricing for my company, which has all the aspects that you mention you’re intrigued by with inventory and sales analysis. There’s a lot of mathematical analysis to find the optimal prices, looking at historical trends, forecasting changes to sales performance. There’s an immediacy to pricing as well, as you will see instant response from customers as soon as you change the price of a good. It could be active feedback, or passive feedback in that you’ll see the response only in the impact on the units sold. Because of this immediacy, you’ll have a lot of passionate stakeholder in your organization (merchants, sales reps, finance, executives) who will be very invested in your decisions, so you need to be able to handle that high level of input and involvement from others and navigate disagreements, as not everyone will have the same passionate opinion. You’ll have to be confident in your decisions, even though it’s really hard to objectively quantify if you delivered the “right” price, a good price, or just a price. (I say this as the person who heads the team, you’ll have to do less of this earlier on as an analyst as your manager will be the one setting the pricing guidelines that you’ll be executing to.)

      That said, I really enjoy this work, because like you, I like numbers, digging for hypothesis in those numbers, and looking for answers to those hypotheses. You’ll need to be killer in Excel, and in evaluating sales performance (sales, comp%, average sell price, margin rate, etc.) and will need to get up to speed quickly on modeling out what if scenarios. (What if I raise my prices by 5% on this category of product? How many units less can I sell and still make more sales dollars? Margin dollars?) SQL expertise is a major plus, as you’ll be dealing with a lot of sales transactional data. My work/life balance is great. And there’s always a flow of work and prices that could use review, but never truly any pricing emergency.

      1. Mishka*

        Thanks for such a detailed response! Your job sounds like something I’d find really interesting and engaging, and I definitely have the experience in SQL and Excel. I’ll have to save this description :)

    4. Doriana Gray*

      I don’t work in these roles, but try and find some actuaries or predictive analytics folks to talk to. We have a ton of them at my company and they get paid very well.

  57. CM*

    Some online job applications ask you to fill in your desired salary, and won’t let you leave it blank. Is it likely that companies will reject you if your desired salary is too high? Is it a good idea to just fill in that blank with a “1” or other number that’s clearly not a salary?

    1. oldfashionedlovesong*

      Here’s where Glassdoor (there’s a thread on it above) comes in handy, if that company has salary reports you can use those as a guide for that box.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      I also think some commenters have been able to bypass the online system by entering 0.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would just put the minimum that I would take if everything turns out perfect and Alison is going to be my boss. Or Wakeen’s Teapots, Ltd.

      They’re pinning you down inappropriately, so say whatever is possibly true that paints you in the best light. If you later find out that they don’t offer health, or teleworking, or PTO, you can adjust that baseline number upwards accordingly, and depending on what it is, you might even let them know why it increased. But if you put $1, they might be thinking to offer you $10K a year. If you put your lowest acceptable number, that’s as good a guess as any, and let’s face it, without having interviewed, you’re making a guess as to what it would take for you to want to work there.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Yep, I’ll just keep entering little numbers until one works. It may reject an annual salary of $1, but $100 will work.

    5. Not Karen*

      If a company is not willing to pay you your desired salary, why would you want to work for them? What does it matter if you get rejected if you wouldn’t take the job anyway?

      1. CM*

        Because my acceptable salary range is very large, depending on benefits and work-life balance. Like, about $80K between my low end and high end.

        I was thinking that starting low would mean that they could come back during salary negotiations and say, “You said you only wanted $X, how come now you’re asking for $X+30?”

      2. BRR*

        I agree with you but you also don’t want to under price yourself. If a company was planning on paying $75K and I put $65K I would rather earn the $75K.

        Plus total compensation is really important. My minimum is higher if the company match is low or health insurance premiums are high.

    6. CM*

      Thanks to all of you for answering my questions! I think next time I’ll try to get away with answering 0 or 100 or something.

  58. So happy it's almost Spring!!!*

    I am hoping to get some feedback (or level setting) about how to handle some frustrations at work. I don’t want to be a whiner, so if I need to check it before I wreck it, I’m open to hearing that as well.

    I am about 3 years into my field of work (medium sized non-profit HR), but have been working full time in a professional role for about the past 8 ½ years. Recently, I have been finding myself really frustrated at work.

    I try to approach things first with a problem-solving mindset or thinking in terms of ‘what can I do next that will add the most value’ to resolve the situation. However, we have been experiencing some issues over the past 5 months that are really starting to wear on me and I’m growing drained by what feels like problem after problem.

    1. How do you handle frustration at work, especially for chronic problems?
    2. I feel like I am constantly telling myself ‘we’re getting there’, but it seems like it’s only one step forward, half a step back. How do you manage situations like that?
    3. Is this normal in a workplace and do I just need to accept, adapt, and move forward?
    4. What is the appropriate way to express this frustration to your manager without whining or making her job a pain?
    5. What is the diplomatic way to say “I’m sick of dealing with this crap every week”?

    1. Intern Wrangler*

      I’m sorry that things aren’t changing sooner. Do you think that it makes sense that it is taking this amount of time or do you think that the issues should be fixed sooner? Real change often is one step forward, half a step back, and then it’s worth persevering. There is work on change management and transitions by William Bridges might be helpful. You might be in the neutral zone, which is an uncomfortable place between endings of an old way, but before the new way has really taken hold. Looking at that might help. For me, when I’ve gone through these times, change happens slowly, and then one day I wake up and look back and can’t believe how far we’ve come.
      As for talking to your manager and/or others, it helps sometimes to be clear what you are asking for. If you are clear that you just need a place to “vent” so you can keep going, rather than looking for someone else to provide a solution, that can give you some room. I’d rather have someone working for me vent to me than take it out in other ways. However, if they complain without recognizing that they are complaining and they don’t bring a solution forward, that will be frustrating for me. So lastly, in these situations, it’s helpful to find the humor. Take a break from the crap you are dealing with each week.
      Good luck!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      1) Focus on what you can fix today. You will find the focus shifts. Look for opportunities to fix smaller problems. Sometimes by fixing small and seemingly unrelated problems you lay the ground work for larger problems to get fixed.

      2) Stop telling yourself “we’re getting there”. There is something about that phrase that rings hollow. The only time I have heard it used is in hopeless situations, so I guess that is my bias. But don’t promise yourself that things will change, it only leads to disappointments.

      3) yeah, it’s normal. “Okay everyone will be required to sweep up their office space before leaving.” What no night cleaners? “No. But I have these handy toothbrushes for you to sweep up with.” Normal.

      4) An appropriate way to express your distress would be to offer her viable ideas that can actually be done soon. These ideas should be well thought out. If you can, do a mini test drive on your own, then show the boss your results.

      5) Oh my. If it’s that bad, the appropriate thing to say is “Here is my two week notice, I have found employment elsewhere.” Try, try, try to remember that everyone who works with you is suffering similar types of problems. Pointing out how sucky it is to the boss is telling her something she already knows.

      Without knowing the particulars of your setting this is general advice. It could be you have something going on such as a boss involved in illegal activity or other things and my advice would change to “get out NOW”. It could be that you have computer problems, heating/AC problems and those sort of things that are pretty normal in an office/work place. So my words may or may not make sense for your setting.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I gave up expecting it to change.

      I started focusing on what I could do to manage WITHIN the “crap,” and how I could buffer myself, my team, and my responsibility/professionalism/quality of work WITHIN the “crap.”

  59. OfficePrincess*

    Does anyone else feel guilty taking a day off that’s not strictly necessary?

    I took today off and as far as my job knows I had some things that had to be scheduled during the day, so I arranged it all into the same day. What are those things? So far I’m planning to take a walk, give myself a pedicure, and catch up on last night’s TGIT. I really don’t think my boss would have an issue with me taking a mental health day (normally I spend the fall trying to use pto), but someone has to cover when I’m out, so I feel guilty taking the day off for “frivolous” reasons. The expectation is that I’m reachable in the event it’s necessary unless I specify that I won’t be, and they all know to text me if there’s anything time sensitive I need to know or provide input on (this also extends to nights and weekends), so why have I checked my email 5 or 6 times already today? Ugh. I’m running out of time to relax on my day set aside for relaxing. Am I the only one who does this?

    1. dancer*

      Oh man, I really really wanted to do that today. I didn’t have any reason to be off and I have a ton to do at work. But I could also really use a mental break. So I guess in my case, guilt won :(

    2. Monique*

      Really interested in the responses to this, writing as someone in dire need of a mental health day.

      I don’t know if you’ve taken a day’s holiday or called in sick, or whether those two are in the same pool at your work. For us, they’re separate, so I’d take a holiday for a mental health day. I only tend to call in sick if I’m physically unwell. I don’t know why, because I certainly think a bad cold warrants a day off, and mental health surely isn’t different to physical health. Hmmm…

      Looking forward to people’s responses!

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

        For me the difference is that when I’m sick it’s usually a “wake up and realize I will not be going to work” thing. With a mental health day I can say “hmm, I need a break… ok next Wednesday is a light day let’s do that!” It also works out well because if I’m really struggling having that extra break scheduled in makes the tough stuff easier to get to because I know my reward is around the corner.

      2. OfficePrincess*

        To clarify, this is a scheduled day off. A few weeks ago, I started looking at the calendar and settled on a day that didn’t have anything special going on and no one else was scheduled to be out. I chose the least disruptive time to take since the busier it is when I’m out, the more I have to do when I come back.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          I feel no guilt for scheduled days off. I’m generally physically healthy but I do have a history of taking last-minute sick days because of not sleeping well or having a cold or being depressed, and I do feel guilty about those. (Fortunately my current job is really flexible so I don’t use nearly as much sick time as I did at previous positions, I just work later hours or come in on a Saturday.)

        2. BRR*

          You should have 0 guilt in this situation. Vacation time is there for you to use it. Your days off are for you to recharge, not just for you to do other errands.

          I used to not be able to disconnect but after working on a team where others did it, I learned how to recharge during days off.

        3. newreader*

          You should feel absolutely no guilt. You planned ahead and gave your coworkers plenty of notice you would be out. And I assume you planned your workload accordingly so that you completed as much as possible ahead of time so as not to leave work undone for coworkers to have to complete today.

          I’ve worked with people that are constantly out of the office with no notice, leaving much work that others need to complete in their absence. That drives me up the wall and I find it inconsiderate. Pre-planned time off when workloads can be coordinated and managed ahead of time are much more appreciated. You deserve to use your time off in the way you prefer, providing you’re not being inconsiderate do about it, which it sounds like you aren’t doing.

          Hope you enjoyed your day and didn’t hear from the office!

        4. Not So NewReader*

          As the years go by, watch the people who never take time off. Interestingly many of them get veerrry sick in their 40-50s. In extreme cases they die young.

          If you cannot get any other rationale to work in your mind, then tell yourself that you are not going to die young, you are going to do what it takes to live a happy, balanced life.

    3. ZSD*

      I think that’s fine as long as you’re using vacation, not sick time, and as long as you give your work normal notice. As in, “I’m planning on taking the Friday after next off to do some errands” seems fine, but, “Hey, I’m calling in at 7:50 to let you know I’m taking a vacation day today,” is not.

    4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Yes, and I’ve been working really hard to get over it. The time is mine to use and if I want to give myself a long weekend so I can stay in bed with my cat then damnit, I’m allowed to use the time for that (provided I follow the appropriate time-off request procedures)!

      I’m taking one Monday. It’s my first day of “spring break” from school and I want to enjoy it (by cleaning all the things I’ve neglected during the term

    5. oldfashionedlovesong*

      As long as I do it on a day where there’s absolutely nothing (meeting, report due, webinar I’m scheduled to attend) going on in the office, I feel no guilt. I have chronic pain, which 99% of the time I suck up and deal with and go to work. But every now and then my battery just does not charge to full and I take a PTO day to sleep in, eat a leisurely meal, relax with a book, Netflix, or even a walk through the mall, and finally get a massage or do some other physical therapy type activity (foam rolling, yoga) for the pain. If anyone at work asks, I took a sick day, because in my opinion, I really did– I was mentally and physically out of gas and I needed to fix that. The next day I am a better, sharper, more genial coworker for having done so.